Transitions

Uganda: Civil society awakens

In March I blogged about nodding disease affecting children in northern Uganda, and the government’s slow response to addressing the problem. A couple of months later, and the response is half-hearted. The disease has spread to six districts in the region, and according to media reports, there are up to 5,000 affected. A civil society ...

Kasamani Isaac/AFP/GettyImages
Kasamani Isaac/AFP/GettyImages

In March I blogged about nodding disease affecting children in northern Uganda, and the government’s slow response to addressing the problem. A couple of months later, and the response is half-hearted. The disease has spread to six districts in the region, and according to media reports, there are up to 5,000 affected.

A civil society organization, Health Watch Uganda, had taken the government to court over its failure to adequately respond to the epidemic. The suit requires the government to compensate families whose children died from the disease. But the Attorney General presented the government’s defense 15 days after the response was due; it came only after Health Watch requested the High Court proceed with the trial without the government’s defense.

This is the second incident where a rights group has taken the government to court over public health issues. In 2011, civil activists sued the government for its failure to address the high rates of maternal and infant mortality in the country. While the constitutional court dismissed the case, it did send a message that civil society will hold the government accountable if it fails to provide adequate health services for the people.

These two cases show that Ugandans are demanding more from their government. I hope a landmark case will force the government to actually address the country’s health issues in the near future.  

Jackee tweets @jackeebatanda

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