AGHA Op-Ed & Update on Expert Positioning

21 01 2010

We are currently in the process of pitching an op-ed to media in Uganda. We’re hopeful that we can get the country’s largest newspaper to publish it in the next few weeks. I thought I’d share as the topic is interesting and shows some of the work I’ve been doing with this NGO.

At the same time, I’ve been helping with an “expert positioning” effort for AGHA and its Executive Director. So far it is going well, though again interactions and expectations from the media are quite different. After the op-ed I’ll post a few responses I received from media upon trying to set up background meetings.

Op-ed: Stop playing politics with Ugandan lives

According to the Global Fund to Fight Tuberculosis, Malaria and HIV/AIDs (GFTAM), an estimated 150,000 Ugandans die from AIDS, Malaria or Tuberculosis each year. There are almost 14 million people affected by these three deadly diseases in Uganda and yet they are also highly preventable. The Global Fund is a multi-billion dollar international financing mechanism established in 2002 that aims to combat these diseases by providing financial grants to countries in need. The GFTAM also now has a window for health systems strengthening which is an opportunity for countries like Uganda to receive funding to address broader weaknesses in the country’s health system.

Clearly, Uganda’s health crisis fits the criteria for this type of assistance yet local politics are hindering our capacity to receive funding and fight these diseases. Currently 95% of all funds for ARVs/TB medications comes from either GFTAM/or PEPFAR. When GFTAM didn’t make a disbursement last March, Uganda experienced a serious TB drug shortage.

In the eight years the Global Fund has been in existence, Uganda has applied for and been approved for money in six rounds out of the nine (round five was not successful, round eight proposal was not submitted and in November 2009 round nine was not approved). A total of $343 million has been committed yet less than half $158 million has been disbursed to date. Why?

Quite simply, the Government of Uganda’s lackadaisical approach to fighting corruption and mending the errors of our previous ways is affecting our ability to secure vital health care funding from the international community.

In 2005, Uganda received publicity when the Global Fund decided to suspend five grants worth $213 million because of mismanagement of funds. While the Government of Uganda acted quickly and spent a lot of money to set up a commission to look into the mismanagement, they have failed to prosecute the people implicated and have yet to come up with a long term plan to ensure this type of corruption does not happen again. In fact, while an estimated 300 people were accused in the mismanagement, only four have been prosecuted. As recently as 2008, the Global Fund acknowledged that Uganda had not done enough to guarantee the safety of the money. We have not received a grant from the Global Fund since then. Coincidence? Unlikely.

Of course the international community is hesitant to dole out more money to Uganda when they lack assurances that the funds will actually go to the people in need.

The time is long overdue for Uganda’s government to address issues of corruption and recognize the effects this type of poor management has on the lives of real Ugandans. President Yoweri Museveni has declared a war on corruption. If President Museveni is really serious about fighting corruption, this is an opportune time to deal with the people who were in senior leadership positions and mismanaged GFTAM monies – people whose indiscretions are costing Uganda millions of dollars. The people with the greatest responsibility for mismanagement of GFTAM monies must be prosecuted and the money returned to the people of Uganda. The diversion of attention from the real criminals by punishing a few small fish as scapegoats is totally unacceptable. It is a sign of political hypocrisy and illustrates a lack of commitment to the people of Uganda.

Most importantly, Uganda needs to figure out a sustainable approach to providing transparency and accountability in how health care funds are spent to mitigate any potential other losses of funds. Ultimately, we must create a system where corruption is not tolerated and the health of Ugandans is the utmost priority for all.

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Verbatim responses from media to expert positioning:

Dear Allison, Thank you very much for your email. This is to inform you that I am already in partnership with AGHA and have on several occassions covered news events for the organisation. I have also held a one on one intrview with the Executive Director Sandra Kiapi. This email is therefore to express my continued commitment in working with AGHA in as far as news coverage, advocacy and campaigns are concerned. I will definitely keep in touch with the Executive Director while covering health and human rights related stories. Thank you once again. —————————————————————————————————————-

Thats good please but am asking you to avail me with a detailed programme for the above mentioned training and meeting with spacified dates. Thank you and may God bless you.

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Dear Alison, niceto hear from you. Happy New year . I have been very busy with my daughter who studes from Goa UniversityIndia. She had come around Xmans time for her research on a Masters programme. I will definetelybe in touch.I remeber around january 7, i received a mail about AGHA and I wrote a story. My boss told me it appeared as a news brief. So you can imagine how someof our bosses frustrate us. That is when I came to know about that organization and the executive director. But when I tried to call her number it was off. I will try to get in touch using the contacts availed me. Please stay in touch. God Bless U.

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