Minister explains why Ebola fight was a success

by Amref Health Africa

KAMPALA – When the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease was confirmed in Uganda in June this year, the government and development partners moved in quickly to contain its spread, and it was a success.

Speaking at the inaugural national conference on health promotion at Speke Resort Munyonyo, the Minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng hinged the success on investing in communities.

She explained that after surveying all Ugandan borders and failing to find where to rightly place the scanning machines, they resolved to let the Ugandan border communities own their own health.

Aceng said they empowered them with knowledge on Ebola and the need to prevent infection through being watchful of who they come in contact with and who enters Uganda through the porous borders.

“They became each other’s keepers. They would inform us of whichever person crossed from DR Congo and asked us to monitor them,” she said.

Through this, Aceng said, they were able to contain and control the spread of the high fatal and infectious disease.

She noted that had this example been employed during the mass measles and rubella vaccination awareness campaigns, Ugandans would never have resisted as they did.

The two-day conference is under the theme ‘investing in health promotion and disease prevention to achieve universal health coverage’.

The conference brings together public health experts to share best practices that raise awareness and understanding of the role of health promotion in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

It is organised by the Ministry of Health in partnership with international bodies and several local public health organizations including WHO, UNICEF, USAID, Pathfinder, Living Goods, Marie Stopes, and Reproductive Health Uganda. Others in attendance were district chairpersons and legislators.

Aceng advised the promoters of health campaigns to always be cognizant of people’s cultures and use statistics to tell the gravity of the problem.

She noted that through investing in communities, Uganda will be making a step towards achieving Universal Health Coverage.

Physical activity

The minister also urged the ministry of education to tighten rules on physical education in schools, saying that most private schools in the country, have abandoned it and only focus on ensuring that children pass national exams.

“Physical education must be emphasized not only in schools but also in communities. 30 minutes of physical exercise is good but if you can do more, then it is much better,” she stated.

She asked the government to expand roads and create walkways for Ugandans to cycle and exercise. In doing this, she said many diseases will be prevented.

Dr. Gitahi Githinji, CEO of AMREF health Africa urged the government to invest in human capital if it is to achieve the Universal Health Coverage.

He stated that there’s a need for equity in the provision of services in the country, through ensuring that all Ugandans have unlimited access to quality services.

The WHO country representative, Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam noted that the conference is indicative of the government’s commitment to promoting disease prevention at the household level.

“It is a great step in the right direction towards Universal Health Coverage. Primary Health Care is the most sustainable way of solving today’s health challenges,” he said.

Woldemariam urged the stakeholders to examine the declarations signed so far on promoting disease prevention, with a view of implementing their recommendations and make them practical at district levels.

Some of the declarations include the Mexico ministerial statement for the promotion of health from ideas to action (2000) and the Bangkok Charter for health promotion in the globalized world (2005).

Article first published on

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