By Mary Asujo
Uganda’s Parliament has passed and adopted a motion urging government to provide free drugs to Ugandans suffering from non-communicable diseases including diabetes and high blood pressure -HBP.
Kanungu District Woman MP, Hon Patience Nkunda tabled a motion on Thursday urging government to provide free early screening and treatment for diabetes and HBD which was ammended to include diabetes-related kidney diseases, retinopathy which causes blindness, free blood lipid control to regulate cholesterol levels and provide screening for Hypertension.
She also called on government through thr Ministry of Health to provide free drugs for Ugandans suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure.
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including heart diseases, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are collectively responsible for 40million fatalities -almost 70% of all deaths worldwide. Locally generated data on NCD risk factors show a rise in NCDs in Uganda and underscores the need to increase investment in and allocation of resources to NCDs.
Tororo Municipality MP, Hon Apollo Yeri Ofwono who seconded the motion, said the medication for NCDs like diabetes and high blood pressure is very expensive but added that in some cases, the drugs are not even available. “Let government through the National Medical Stores (NMS) take responsibilty to provide these drugs free of charge” he said.
Ngora Woman MP, Apolot Stella, urged government to install screening machines at low level health centers across the country because it is where poor Ugandans who cannot afford expensive healthcare usually go.
According to Nkunda, 40% of Uganda’s health centres don’t stock drugs to treat chronic diseases and currently the drugs for diabetes and high blood pressure are too expensive for the average Ugandan.
Several legislators including Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa however proposed that the scope should be broadened beyond NCDs saying besides diabetes and high blood pressure, there are many other ailments that require attention. Basalirwa added that some of the non-communicable diseases can be avoided through regular exercise and proper diet.
“As we urge government on NDCs, there is need to sensitize ourselves on the need to live healthy lives and lifestyles.” Hon Basalirwa said.
He was supported by other MPs like Ngora MP, Stella Apolot, Gomba West Woman MP Robinah Rwakoojo Gureme and Luuka woman MP, Esther Mbayo who suggested that the impact will be felt more if the focus is on non-communicable disease because there are other serious ailments which have not been given much attention yet they are affecting poor-of-the poorest of Ugandans.
On behalf of government, the State Minister for Industry David Bahati, acknowledged that government welcomes the motion to provide free services to patients with NCDs but prevention measures should start with leaders being exemplary.
“The big task is prevention. We have free one-hour airtime on radios to talk about government programmes and I urge you to use this airtime to talk about NCDs, especially the preventive side,” Bahati said.
Buwekula County MP, William Museveni, noted that Uganda should introduce the national physical exercise policy which he said will go a long way in addressing the issue of non-communicable diseases.
Other legislators including Hon Milton Muwuma, urged Speaker Oulanyah to consider including Diabetes and Hypertension on the list of the ailments the public should be educated about during Parliament health week.
“We focus on cancer and HIV/AIDS. Could we interest ourselves on popularizing how to prevent NCDs?” He said.
Moyo West MP, Tom Alero hailed President Yoweri Museveni for exhibiting exemplary attitude by emphasizing the importance of working out as a way to keep chronic diseases at bay, calling on Ugandans to emulate the president in order to prevent dangerous NCDs.
Many other legislators called for lifestyle change options through proper diet and regular physical exercise in order to stay safe from cardiovascular diseases.