Dr. Kizza Besigye was finally allowed to fly to Nairobi to seek treatment for his battering yesterday at the hands of (flower-print shirted, h/t Rosebell) plainclothes state security operatives. NTV has footage of his departure:
I am very glad Dr. Besigye was ultimately allowed to fly (@AndrewMwenda suggests maybe he needs to invest in a boat now that walking, driving and flying are forbidden), but let’s remember why he needs to go to Nairobi in the first place (apart from his brutal treatment). There are no hospitals in Uganda that come close to rivaling the best of those of Kenya or South Africa. Those who get care in Mulago or IHK are the luckiest.
Beyond the overburdened national referral hospital and private hospitals (the latter of which are impossibly expensive for most), the health sector in Uganda is in a pathetic state. Health worker absenteeism, drug leakage, and even ghost clinics are rampant. A 2007 survey found that only 6% of Uganda’s hospitals had the basic infection control elements (soap, running water, latex gloves, etc.). 1 in 8 children will not live to see their first birthday, meaning that nearly 500 of the 4000+ born each day will have died within the next five years. Maternal mortality has not improved by any statistically significant amount from 1995 to 2006, when the last Demographic and Health study was completed (Uganda DHS 2006 pg.282).
The failures of the health sector are to a large extent, a failure of governance.
Yes, it is terrible that security forces attempted to stop Besigye from seeking the medical treatment he so desperately needs and deserves. It literally added insult to a horribly unjust injury. But even more terrible is that Besigye is only one of millions of Ugandans who desperately need quality health care. And most aren’t getting it.