By Flavia Nassaka
The worst and best in health for the year
It wasn’t a good year start for many especially those who stay in the capital Kampala. Having managed to overcome the Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers scare that characterized the world in 2014, Uganda was in February hit by a typhoid fever outbreak prompting the health ministry to designate treatment centers to exclusively cater for typhoid patients.
On Feb. 19, the Ministry released an alert when 142 patients from within Kampala presented symptoms. By Mar. 05, the number of suspected cases had increased to 1,940 before hitting 14,000 by the end of April.
When numbers hit 3000 at the main typhoid treatment facility – Kisenyi Health Center IV, UPDF medical officers had to come in to help and another treatment centre within the facility was, therefore, set up to cater for increasing numbers.
The disease that spread to 14 other districts majorly affected casual labourers and those who work in shops in down town Kampala mainly because they buy food from vendors and other city eateries that may not be so keen on sanitation.
But, just as officials were struggling to contain the outbreak, the mid April rainy season set in. It carried along another fever – malaria; this time in northern Uganda.
By July, hospitals in the north were receiving hundreds of malaria cases yet these cases had drastically decreased in 2014 when the Ministry of Health rolled out Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) in different districts. By July 23, according to Ministry of Health statistics, up to 162 deaths had been recorded in health facilities and the community in 10 districts of including the worst hit Apac whose hospitals registered 3,278 cases, Amuru 2,249, Kitgum with 5,382 cases and Oyam with 2,219.
Apart from the outbreaks, the country continued to grapple with cardiovascular diseases and cancers. While the country lost the Internal Affairs Minister Gen. Aronda Nyakairima to a heart attack, cancer claimed a number. Cancer has been a tough disease for years but it received much attention this year with many stories about the deadly disease in the media especially after it claimed senior journalists in just a space of days – UBC’s Bbale Francis succumbed to cancer of the bladder on April 02, Rosemary Nankabirwa a former news anchor at NTV died of a rare adrenocortical carcinoma cancer that affect the adrenal glands on April 12 whereas Akaboozi radio’s Danny Kyazze died of lung cancer earlier on Feb. 19.
In looking for solutions to tackle the deadly cancer, the ministry in November rolled out a mass immunisation against the Human Papiloma virus for girls aged between 10 and 13 years. The virus causes among others; cervical cancer, which is common among women. At the launch of the immunisation drive, Health Minister Elioda Tumwesigye said 300 in every 100,000 women in the country already have cervical cancer.
In addition to the drive, considering that cancer and other health issues can be caused by tobacco smoking, parliament on July 28 passed the Tobacco Control Bill and later the President assented to it despite strong opposition from traders and manufacturers. The bill introduced on the floor of parliament by Dr. Chris Baryomunsi; MP for Kinkizi East and State Minister of Health for General Duties, banned smoking in all public places and use of smokeless tobacco such as; Shisha, Kuber and electronic cigarettes which had become common.