A consortium of five civil society organisations led by HEPS-Uganda organised a week of activities in March 2009 to launch one-year advocacy campaign against the persistent stock-outs of essential medicines in public health facilities.
The “Stop stock-outs” campaign is a part of a regional campaign being simultaneously implemented in six African countries, including Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
HEPS-Uganda is implementing the campaign in Uganda, in partnership with Action for Development (ACFODE), Action Group for Health Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (AGHA), Alliance for Integrated Development and Empowerment (AIDE), and National Forum of PLHA Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU).
The campaign is being implemented with funding from Open Society Institute.
The launch activities included a visit to Kisenyi Health Centre IV in central Kampala on 17th March; a press conference and public forum on 19th March; and a talk show on radio Simba FM in Kampala.
Through the campaign, the civil society is asking government to:
§ Ensure availability of essential medicines at all public health institutions;
§ Ensure that there is sufficient funding for the medicines within the minimum healthcare package;
§ Give representation of civil society on the board of the National Medical Stores;
§ Enhance transparency in medicines supply management;
§ Provide a dedicated budget line for essential medicines; and
§ Live up to its commitment to spend 15% of the national budget on healthcare.
The visit to Kisenyi health centre was graced by Kampala Woman Member of Parliament Hon. Nabila Sempala, who led a 500-meter procession from Kisenyi social centre to the health centre, and local musician Kyagulanyi Ssentamu a.k.a Bobi Wine, who attracted a large following of ‘wananchi’ along the way.
At the health centre, the activists conducted interviews with patients and health workers on their experiences on the medicine stock-out situation at the health centre. There were also speeches from the area LC I and LC II executives, HEPS-Uganda Executive Director Ms Rosette Mutambi, ACFODE’s George Kanyomozi, Bobi Wine and chief guest Hon. Nabila Sempala.
The press conference at the National Theatre attracted over 50 journalists from various print and electronic media houses.
Speaking to the journalists, Ms Mutambi said: “It is inexcusable that Ugandans dependent on public health institutions continue to die and suffer pain and trauma for lack of essential medicines to treat common health conditions.”
The press was also addressed by a cancer patient, one Allen; Ms Sandra Kiapi (AGHA Uganda), Mr Denis Kibira (Campaign coordinator), and Ms Florence Nagawa (NAFOPHANU).
The public forum, held shortly after the press conference, attracted 80 participants, who discussed the medicine stock-out issues.
The campaign launch activities were widely covered in the mass media and generated a public debate that prompted NMS to issue statements explaining its challenges and an impromptu visit by MPs on the Parliamentary Social Services Committee to NMS to ascertain stock levels of essential medicines.