Nurses under their umbrella body Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union (UNMU) will, starting next month break off from work for one and half hours for lunch should government fail to fulfill an earlier promise of giving them Shs 15,000 daily lunch allowance.
The lunch allowance demand translates to Shs 126 billion annually (or Shs 36,750,000 daily) for the 24,500 nurses across the country. Justus Cherop Kiplangat, the president of the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union, says money wasn't included in the budget, despite promises by cabinet last year to provide them with lunch and accommodation allowances.
According to Cherop, nurses have been receiving Shs 2000 as a daily lunch allowance since 1996, which can no longer buy a decent meal. Over the past one year, Cherop said the president has made several promises to them including Shs 1 billion to boost their SACCO, accommodation and scholarships for nurses and midwives but none of them has been fulfilled.
To him, the recurrent disappointments have taken a toll on the morale of many health workers forcing them to leave the profession and others the country in search of better opportunities. He said after salary increments, a lower cadre nurse earns Shs 600,000 per month.
Annet Birungi, a nurse at Mulago national referral hospital, says the money is insufficient given the fact that they have to rent a house, settle transport fares and buy lunch. They want the lowest-paid cadre to earn at least a net salary of Shs 1 million.
During the national celebrations for the International Day for Nurses and Midwives held at Kyamate secondary school playground in Ntungamo municipality in May, President Museveni pledged to increase the daily lunch allowance of nurses from the current Shs 2000 to Shs 15,000.