By Davidson Ndyabahika
Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has made a commitment on behalf of Uganda in efforts towards the end of Malaria in Uganda. The president said in absence of a vaccine against malaria, community mobilisation, political will and strengthening research capacity will be prioritized in the fight against Malaria.
“I have never known why the vaccine (against plasmodium) is impossible. But we are ready. I am ready to launch a full war against the mosquito and the plasmodium so that we are free from Malaria,” said President Museveni at the virtual webinar titled Rethinking Malaria in the Context of COVID-19 on Wednesday September 1, 2021.
His statement came after scientists highlighted the community engagement, commitment at both local and national level and evidence based decision making sine qua non in the successful fight against malaria.
The East African country has the 3rd highest global burden of malaria cases (5%) and the 8th highest level of deaths (3%) with the highest proportion of malaria cases in East and Southern Africa 23.7% according to the 2019 World Malaria Report of the World Health Organisation.
This global discussion sponsored by Harvard University, Makerere University among other partners sought to ‘take stock’ of the global malaria situation and offer insights on the most effective and innovative response to control and eliminate malaria across the globe.
Research evidence show that Uganda has a stable, perennial malaria transmission in 95 percent of the country, with Anopheles gambiae s.l. and An. funestus s.l. being the most common malaria vectors.
Despite this, the country has made gains in so far prolonged robust and multipronged interventions.
A recent World Malaria Report shows that between 2016 and 2019, the estimated number of malaria cases decreased 7.2%, from 283 to 263 per 1 000 000 of the population at risk, while deaths fell 9.5% from 0.34 to 0.31 per 1000 of the population at risk over the same period.
However, in 2019, malaria cases increased in comparison to 2018 as the transmission peak was untypically long due to increased rains and aging of mosquito nets distributed in 2017/2018.
But president Museveni said Uganda has “been a bit leisurely in our handling of Malaria.” He contends that Ugandans have lived with Malaria for centuries but have not been as scared as of Coronavirus or with Ebola.
“In the case of Uganda, without a very acute health problem like the one of Ebola, corona, we were diverted with so many other things. Initially we were engaged in minimum recovery of the economy, we are now struggling with development and transformation but we actually take it up. And I would want to look at the figures. Supposing we eliminated Malaria and we reduce it to zero, how much would we save?” President Museveni.
He further observes that Malaria can be defeated citing that while the use of chemicals is good, he worries about their inefficiency since malaria causing parasites Plasmodium mutates and becomes immune to the therapeutics.
“We used to have Quinine therapy, I don’t know what happened to it. Then we had Chloroquine, I hear that it no longer affects Malaria. Whatever we are using now, the question is why should we preserve it? Why don’t we get rid of these mosquitoes? Or immunize people so that they become immune from the plasmodium?” President Museveni asked scientists.
He also underscored the role of behavioral change as a key public health measure in disease prevention. He highlights that majority diseases affecting Africans have in the past been managed and others can be managed through behavioral change.
Mak’s GMI Labs Authorized to Conduct DNA Paternity Testing
The Genomics, Molecular, and Immunology Laboratories (GMI Labs), operating under the auspices of the Makerere University Biomedical Research Center (MakBRC), have achieved another significant milestone in their journey of diagnostic excellence. The labs, renowned for their pivotal role in infectious and non-infectious disease research, have received official approval from the Director General Health Services at the Ministry of Health (MoH), Uganda, to conduct DNA Paternity Tests.
Situated at the Dept of Immunology & Molecular Biology under the School of Biomedical Sciences at the College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, the GMI Labs have been at the forefront of cutting-edge research, diagnostic testing, and training initiatives. Their remarkable contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic, where they conducted nearly a million PCR tests, underscored their unwavering commitment to public health and scientific advancement. The labs’ exemplary performance and reliability were further highlighted by their successful management of two critical COVID-19 prevalence surveys. The findings of these surveys served as foundational data for crucial decisions guiding the country’s lockdown strategies and phased reopening, earning commendation from the President and the Ministry of Health.
This latest authorization from the Ministry of Health marks a significant expansion of the GMI Labs’ diagnostic capabilities. With the approval to conduct DNA Paternity Tests, the labs are now equipped to offer a crucial service addressing the need for accurate and reliable genetic testing for determining biological parentage. In a letter dated 22nd November 2023, the Director General Health Services emphasized the laboratory’s rigorous adherence to international standards, proficiency in molecular biology techniques, and their proven track record in delivering precise and credible results. This approval further solidifies the labs’ position as a trusted institution for advanced genetic diagnostics in Uganda.
Prof. Moses L Joloba, the Director of the GMI Labs, expressed immense pride in the team’s dedication and expertise that led to this authorization. He highlighted the labs’ commitment to upholding the highest standards of ethical practice, confidentiality, and accuracy in DNA paternity testing, ensuring the delivery of dependable results crucial for legal, personal, and familial purposes.
The inclusion of DNA Paternity Testing within the GMI Labs’ list of services aligns with their overarching goal of advancing healthcare through state-of-the-art diagnostics, research, and education. This milestone represents not only a significant achievement for the labs but also a valuable resource for individuals seeking reliable and comprehensive genetic testing services. As the GMI Labs continue their unwavering commitment to excellence in healthcare and research, this new capability reaffirms their pivotal role in advancing the frontiers of molecular diagnostics and genetic testing in Uganda, working closely with reputable institutions such as Makerere University Hospital and other top-notch health facilities.
MNCH e-Post Issue 121: Learning from Nsambya Hospital Human Milk Bank to inform national scale-up & save preterm babies
Welcome to this exclusive interview with Prof. Peter Waiswa, lead expert from the Makerere University Centre of Excellence for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health. Dr. Victoria Nakibuuka from St. Francis Nsambya Hospital, and Dr. Jesca Nsungwa from Ministry of Health Uganda. In this video, they discuss a groundbreaking innovation in Uganda’s healthcare landscape: the country’s first-ever human milk bank at St. Francis Hospital Nsambya. This initiative represents a significant stride towards improving the survival rates of premature and vulnerable infants by ensuring access to essential breast milk, even when mothers are unable to produce enough. Watch Video
METS Newsletter October 2023
The Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Support (METS) Program is a 5-year CDC-supported collaboration of Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH), the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Health Information Systems Program (HISP Uganda).
Highlights of the METS October 2023 Newsletter
- Strategies for Enhanced Disease Surveillance and Public Health Response in Uganda
- The MoH Department of Integrated Epidemiology Surveillance & Public Health Emergencies (IES&PHE) Head, Commissioner Allan Muruta (Dr) visited METS to acquaint himself with the various surveillance activities supported by the Program.
- Commissioner Muruta emphasized the need to build the capacity of districts and regions to conduct surveillance activities by training the relevant staff and establishing surveillance focal points at health facility levels.
- He further emphasized the importance of linking laboratory data to the District Health Information System (DHIS2) and ensuring that different systems are interoperable.
- Improving quality of data for HIV testing services (HTS) through regular assessments
- MoH has been conducting Data Quality Assessments and Improvement (DQAI) activities to inform program planning, monitoring, and performance management. HIV testing services (HTS) inter was conducted in 16 regions, 81 districts, and 111 health facilities in partnership with 26 Implementing partners.
- The HTS DQA has improved data management, infrastructure, and understanding of indicators. Specific staff assignment at each HTS entry point has proven effective, and use of the UgandaEMR system for reporting has yielded positive results.
- Shaping Uganda’s Healthcare Data Landscape
- METS has maintained a strong collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) providing invaluable technical support in developing various strategic guidelines for the country. These guidelines include the Uganda Health Information Exchange and Interoperability (HIE) Guidelines, the Uganda Health Data Protection and Confidentiality (HDPC) Guidelines, and the Uganda Health Data Sharing, Access, and Use Guidelines.
- HIE and HDPC guidelines have received the endorsement of the Health Information, Innovation and Research (HIIRE) Technical Working Group (TWG), awaiting presentation to the senior management team at the MoH for final approval.
- Empowering Health Professionals: PrEP Training in Hoima District
- MakSPH-METS has taken a proactive stance in supporting Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) for key populations through the development, management, and conducting trainings on the use of the PrEP tracker system across various agencies.
- METS conducted a 5-day training on the KP/PrEP Tracker system in Hoima district. Moving forward, facility staff will be able to enter data on PrEP services into the system in a timely manner, analyze the data, and use it for program improvement.
- HIV testing services (HTS) Data Quality Assessments and Improvement DQAIs
- Interagency cervical cancer on-site mentorships
- Orientation in KP tracker-Soroti
- TDY from CDC headquarters visit to METS
- M&E orientation meetings for new Implementing Partners
- Planning meeting for Cross Border Data Sharing-Busia
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