Kampala, Uganda | AGNES NANTABA | Dr Ekwaro Obuku has emerged as a fighter for better working conditions flagged by better pay for medical and health workers in Uganda. As president of Uganda Medical Association (UMA), Obuku led doctors and other health workers in a nationwide sit down strike from Nov.06.
A son of a medical doctor and nurse, Dr John Brian Obuku (RIP) and Teo Kibirige Obuku, the low pay of health personnel in Uganda has been a reality throughout his life.
“The earliest remuneration I saw was for my father and it was around Shs154, 500 at a time when I was right about to join campus,” says Obuku,”“Even then, the remuneration of doctors was very discouraging and to be honest, I was expecting that I would do law but I didn’t perform well in literature because of a technical mistake.”
It was a triumph for his father who pushed him into medicine. Today, in a family of seven, all the three boys are doctors though in different fields. He gained admission on a basketball scholarship since he played the game throughout his six years at St Mary’s College Kisubi. He says he told his father never to give him money again and started doing odd jobs to earn some money.
He says working conditions of intern doctors were far better than they are currently. With his posting letter and an air ticket, Obuku was well received at Arua Regional Referral Hospital in 2003. Intern doctors were also entitled to facilitation for working at night and over the weekends.
“I had a wonderful, memorable and rich experience and its nothing as compared to what interns go through today as they are not valued,” he says.
At graduation, he was posted to Mubende Regional Referral Hospital at the time headed by his father. Then he went to Karamoja to engage in school health programmes. He was then posted to Mungule Health Centre in Adjumani district before returning to Kampala to work with the Worker’s Treatment Centre under Uganda Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS. He was one of the first people to prescribe branded ARVs. He also worked with Joint Clinical Research centre, Makerere University on several programmes and Institute of Human Virology.
Obuku is optimistic that the conditions for doctors and other health workers in Uganda can improve. His fight was highly motivated by the works of Dr Margaret Mungherera (RIP) and others in 2012 when he joined the association.
Obuku was born in Kenya in Victoria Hospital in February 1978 where his parents had taken refuge from the ravages of the Idi Amin dictatorship and only returned home in 1992. He studied at Tabaka Missionary Nursery School and Sosio Primary School in Masai-land Kenya before moving to St Mary’s Misocho Primary school. He is married to a sociologist wife with whom they have seven children.