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EBOLA: Health Ministry, US Embassy clash over Shs85bn funds, calls for accountability meeting

When confronted about the controversy on social media, Hon Muhanga stuck to her guns saying the Health Ministry had received no funding from the US.

Uganda's Minister of State for Primary Health Care Hon Margret Muhanga (L) and US Ambassador to Uganda Ms Natalie E Brown (R)

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The Ministry of Health has publicly maintained that it hasn’t received any funds from the US Embassy toward combating the Ebola Virus Disease in Uganda.

This was revealed by Minister of State for Primary Health Care Hon Margret Muhanga while appearing before parliament where she told MPs that the ministry needed up to Shs 75billion to implement a three-month Ebola response plan.

According to Ms Muhanga, the response plan was presented to the Finance Ministry but there had been no response so far, which has forced the Health Ministry had had to dig in its own coffers and spent up to Shs 2.1 billion to fight the virus.

Moments later, the US Embassy in Kampala put out a statement of its own indicating that they had so far channelled more than $22.3 million (nearly UGX 85 billion) to support the Government‘s response to the current Ebola virus outbreak since September 20, 2022.

“The United States has channelled more than $22.3 million (nearly UGX 85 billion), through implementing partners, to support the Government of Uganda-led response to the current Ebola virus outbreak since September 20, 2022.  By supporting the leading role of Uganda’s Ministry of Health (MOH), and in coordination with other national and international partners, U.S. government funding advances Ebola surveillance and contact tracing, case management, follow-up care for Ebola survivors, diagnostics and laboratories, risk communications and community engagement, infection prevention and control, waste management, care and treatment for patients in Ebola Treatment Units, and also safe and dignified burials,” the Embassy said in a November 2 statement.

Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng together with officials from the US Embassy, assessing the ongoing Ebola response in Kassanda and Mubende Districts on Tuesday

The Embassy went on to share a breakdown of how this money has been utilised, with up to $5.5 million going to support contact tracing, alert management, emergency response coordination, border health, lab training, surge staff and infection, prevention and control (IPC), and another $3.8 million going to the Infectious Disease Institute (IDI) for IPC, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), contact tracing, Entebbe International airport support, safe and dignified burials.

Hon Muhanga in her presentation to MPs said while several partners had mobilised resources toward the Ebola response, they “are yet to be formally to be communicated to the Ministry of Health.”

When confronted about the controversy on social media, Hon Muhanga stuck to her guns saying the Health Ministry had received no funding from the US.

“Please come to the ministry and show us where that money is because we haven’t got it,” she said, adding; “Or ask the PS (Dr Diana Atwiine) if she received that money. Don’t confuse the public”

Contacted over the same, the Health Ministry spokesperson, Emmanuel Ainebyoona said the ministry will next week have an “accountability forum where we hope to know which implementing partner has received how much.”

Ainebyoona added that the forum will be a meeting with all partners that are supporting the Ebola response both directly and indirectly, and also establish how much money has been received, and how much has been given to each implementing partner.

“Because we are also seeing announcements on social media, so we want to know whether these funds have come or if they are still pledges so that we are able to align and coordinate property to avoid duplication,” he said.

The development comes at a time when Ugandans on social media have been irked by the controversy surrounding the funding, and asked the Ministry of Health to clear the air on how much money has been received.

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