By Mike Sebalu
A section of civil society organizations together with some members of parliament have asked government to prioritise the health sector in the next financial year 2024/25.
The budget process for the financial year 2024/25 budget cycle will begin in September this year. This follows continued budget cuts the health sub-sector has continued to suffer in the new financial year budget 2023/24, which is going to be read today.
According to the approved annual budget estimates for the financial year 2023/24, votes in the health sub program are set to suffer a UGx 181.6 billion budget cut, excluding Local Government grants and KCCA when compared to the Financial year 202/2023 budget.
While addressing the media at Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) offices in Ntinda in response to the approved budget estimates for the FY 2023/24 that were read on Thursday, Ms Patricia Munaabi, the executive director FOWODE said in spite of the highlighted gaps, the FY 2023/24 national budget framework paper indicated that the wage bill for the delivery of primary health care will be cut by UGX 3.483 billion from UGX 751.822 billion in the FY 2022/23 to Ugx 748.339 billion in the new FY 2023/24.
“Government needs to safeguard the health sector human resources budget from cuts if it’s to address the gaps indentified in the budget strategy in relation to human resources for health. The Ministry of health also needs to develop and submit a costed human resource plan elaborating how it intends to progressively cover the highlighted human resource gaps to the optimal levels that were set in the NDP III frame work,” Ms Munaabi said.
About financing the reproductive maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, activists commended the government for increasing allocation to reproductive health supplies in the forthcoming FY from 22 billion to 25.11 billion in the financial year 2023/24.
Ms Munaabi however said, there still exist a persistent problem of stock outs for maternal lifesaving health commodities.
“The government needs to prioritize and allocate resources to close the 41% staffing gap in the child health department. The national medical stores needs to target zero stock-out for maternal life saving commodities through increased support to districts to adequately forecast and deliver the requested commodities on time,” she noted.
The Chairperson Parliament Committee of Gender, Labor and Social Development Flavia Rwabuhoro Kabahenda expressed concern that the passionate issues that are always discussed are again on their backs.
“If you have to talk about sustainable development, we are talking about people because development is not about objects, it’s about the people. You can do all the roads, you can do all the electricity, you can buy all the fire arms but as long as the people neither are nor developed, you are doing that in vain,” Rwabuhoro said.
“How can you just say no more recruitment for all sectors and you done even mind the sector of education and health, will be affected most and the need for recruitment is high on health than it would be on any other sector.” Kabahenda added.
Peter Echweru from Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) said the overall reduction in the health budget sector is extremely dangerous especially in a Country with a population growth rate of about 3.4% annually.
He cited issues related to blood where he said in the current financial year, there was an increase from 18 billion to about 23 billion for blood collection and the number of mothers dieing from blood related loss has reduced from 42 to 41% before the year ends but unfortunately, while the Parliament Committee of Health had proposed a progressive increase in budget allocation for blood, in today’s budget it has dropped to Ugx 21 billion.
“That means there will be more mothers who will be in health facilities and not able to get blood and that means death and so this is one area we actually think that if our commitment of reducing maternal mortality to 70 per 1000 deliveries by 2030 is to be achieved, then this is one area we need to consistently invest resources in,” Echeru said.
Kassanda district Woman Member of Parliament Flavia Nabagabe proposed sources for financing the health sector looking at the bloated budget for the Presidency which total mounting to 250 billion shillings annually as recommended in the minority report of the budget estimates for parliament.
‘The president has about 250 billion shillings allocated to him but we can reduce this budget to 82 billion shillings to carter for the some of the budgetary priorities including staffing, inadequate medical equipments among others,” Nabagabe said.
“We can also look at the budget of the office of the government chief whip and this is also another proposal we made,” she added.