The Ministry of Health has said it will implement an outbreak insurance pilot study, recently launched by African Risk Capacity Outbreak and Epidemic (O&E) Programme, on four selected pathogenic diseases - Ebola, Marburg, Meningitis, and Lassa Fever.
The ministry in a statement said the implementation of this study is intended to strengthen Uganda’s response to outbreaks and epidemics which are known to cause significant human loss and economic burden.
The African Risk Capacity Outbreaks and Epidemics Pilot Programme builds on its success in implementing climate disaster risk financing programmes in Africa; and comes as an integrated system to enable governments to respond early and effectively to public health emergencies.
Over the last two decades, Uganda has been a victim of public health emergencies such Ebola, Marburg, Meningitis, Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley Fever, Measles among others.
These have continued to cripple our health systems by drawing away health workers, putting a heavy strain on our national capacities, including diversion of financial resources.
Reeling from the Ebola outbreak response experience of 2000, Uganda has since made significant improvements in outbreak response and management leading to rapid detection and control as seen in the subsequent outbreaks in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The most recent example is the rapid detection and control of a Marburg Viral Disease (MVD) outbreak in Kween and Kapchorwa in 2017 where the outbreak was aptly contained.
Uganda boasts of an array of well-established systems to strengthen outbreak response and management such as the Emergency Operations Centre, Laboratory Network Strengthening, Health Work Training, Strengthened Surveillance and Coordinating Mechanisms.
However, despite these advancements, rapid and predictable outbreak funding remains a big challenge. This in part delays early and effective response leading to outbreak escalation and delayed control.
Working with each country, the African Risk Capacity O&E Programme will model epidemic risk for the pathogens, optimize early warning systems, create contingency plans for rapid response in advance, and open access to quick disbursing financing through a parametric insurance mechanism.
This National launch marks an important step in a programme that has the potential to provide our continent with meaningful support and progress in
controlling and minimizing the damage done by disease outbreaks. We cannot afford to wait until after disaster strikes – Uganda and the region at large must prepare, and we must invest in saving lives.
The World Health Organisation’s International Health Regulations Joint External Evaluation calls on member countries to devise and implement innovative funding initiatives to address the issue of outbreak funding. Outbreak response is an expensive venture in terms of cost.
Despite the small size of the outbreak, the most recent Marburg outbreak cost government 5.2 billion Shillings (1.4M USD) to control.
The implementation of this Outbreak Insurance Pilot study will allow us, as a country, to demonstrate our leadership in further building regional resilience solutions to public health emergencies and health systems strengthening by contributing to one of the key bottlenecks in outbreak and emergency response.
Uganda and Guinea (Conakry) will be the pioneer countries to implement this study in Africa. These two locations were selected based on regional balance and their previous experience with epidemic-prone diseases of international concern.
The Outbreaks & Epidemics Programme will help strengthen the Ugandan health system by contributing to our capacity in risk profiling and contingency response planning. This will ensure that we are no longer constrained by slow and unpredictable funding which usually hinders timely response to outbreaks and epidemics at great cost to our vulnerable population.
It is now my pleasure to commit the expertise of Ministry of Health in supporting African Risk Capacity to develop this product which not only benefits Uganda, but the entire continent in improving our capability and ability to better handle future outbreaks and epidemics.