Buliisa — More than 100 health workers deployed to manage various Ebola screening centers in Bullisa district have abandoned their duty stations citing none payment. The affected include members of Village Health teams-VHTs and Health workers attached to various health facilities in the district.
The affected workers are said to have abandoned the 4 Ebola screening centers at Wanseko, Butiaba, Walukuba and Somsio in January this year. The health officials claim that they haven't been paid their allowances since October last year, which has left them with no choice but to lay down their tools.
Our reporter was unable to establish how much each worker earns and how much they are demanding all together. Bullisa district established Ebola screening centers last year to avert a possible infiltration by suspected Ebola victims from the Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC where more than 2000 succumbed to the epidemic.
DRC declared their tenth Ebola outbreak in 40 years on August 1, 2018. The outbreak devastated areas in South Kivu, North Kivu, and Ituri provinces, which are close to Buliisa district in Western Uganda. With the frequent cross-border movements for personal reasons and trade, government set up a number of screening centers specifically for people crossing from DR Congo.
Our reporter visited the designated Wanseko entry point in Buliisa district and found no health officer screening those crossing into the country despite the huge influx of Congolese to the district using the Wanseko-Panyimur ferry that plies the route twice a day.
The Albert Nile ferry plies the 12-nautical-mile route from Panyimur in Pakwach District to Wanseko in Buliisa District. The ferry is also the major link for regional towns like Hoima, Kigorobya, Masindi, Biiso, Buliisa and Wanseko in Bunyoro in the Albertine, and Panyimur, Dei, Pakwach, Nebbi, Paidha and Arua in West Nile.
Users of the ferry also come from far flung places in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Dr. Nelson Naisye, the Bullisa District Health Officer-DHO confirmed that the health workers have abandoned the Ebola screening centers after persevering for four months without pay.
Dr. Naisye says Buliisa district stands a greater risk of contracting the deadly Ebola virus because of the huge influx of Congolese to the district.
He however, declined to mention how much the over 100 health workers are demanding. Residents in the district have tasked government to revive the screening centers noting that there is a lot of cross border movement.
Moses Tumusiime, a resident of Walukuba landing site says they are living in fear since some DRC business persons continue to enter the district without being checked or screened against Ebola.
Godwine Tumusiime, a resident of Bugoigo landing site says there are DRC nationals who cross over to Uganda through the Lake Albert waters taking advantage of the abandoned Entry points.
Patrick Kyakurugahai, a resident of Butiaba landing site wonders why the health officials are unbothered about the closed screening points despite being used by Congolese nationals to cross into Uganda.
Majid Kisembo, a resident of Panyimur in Pakawach district who was found boarding the Wanseko-Panyimur ferry, says it is paramount for every person boarding the ferry to get screened before setting off from either destination but wonders why this is not being done.
Eriya Ngadu from Buseruka in Hoima district, who frequently uses the Wanseko-Panyimur Ferry to cross to DR Congo to operate his business, says the lives of Ugandans along the Lake Albert shores are at greater risk because of the absence of screening centers more especially at Wanseko and Panyimur entry points.