While we recognize government’s responsibility in ensuring human security of its citizens, as women of Uganda we are greatly concerned about the recent proposed expenditure worth 1.7 trillion on a seemingly less urgent purchase of fighter jets while other pressing and crucial needs of the people and vulnerable women in particular go unattended.
About 30% of Ugandans live below 1 dollar a day, of these over 7million (20% of households) live in chronic poverty and majority are women (CPRC, 2005).
The current worsening inflation (current inflation rate is 11.1% by Mar 2011, rising from 6.4% in 2010; Bank of Uganda), rising costs of living and a brunt of suffering of many Ugandans affecting more women and children.
Today, over 6,000 women die every year (16 die daily) from preventable pregnancy related causes and for every woman who dies six survive with chronic and debilitating ill health.
The Uganda Demographic Health Survey (2006), estimates that a total of 200,000 women in the country suffer from obstetric fistula. According however according to Engender Health-an NGO working on fistula care and treatment, the problem is endemic and the total numbers of fistula survivors are far higher than what is documented. This is because fistula statistics are obtained from health facilities yet so many women with fistula suffer in silence due to lack of understanding of the condition and social stigma and hence rarely seek medical attention.
In addition, two thirds of pupils who enroll in primary one are unlikely to complete primary seven (UNHS, 2006). Retention and completion rates especially for the girl-child are too low making the country far from achieving the MDGs.
Many other socio-economic challenges still persistent such as high unemployment affecting more women than men; volatile climatic changes associated with hunger and malnutrition; gender based violence; trauma; distress; raising mental health problems; increasing HIV infection and declining access to ARVs and high deaths resulting from preventable diseases like malaria among others.
Despite the enormous social economic development concerns, there seems to be lack of government prioritization that takes into consideration the needs of its citizens. As we have condemned in the past the misuse and avoidable loss of billions of tax payers money in several scams like the National Social Security Fund/Temangalo scam; the CHOGM scandal; unfounded election-timed payments to Members of Parliament among others, we raise our voices again as women of Uganda and mothers of this nation to urge government as it considers the 1.7 trillion shillings purchase of fighter jets for long term investment including 3 billion shillings budget for the president’s swearing-in ceremony, to prioritise the issues raised above that will meet the practical needs of its people.
With the 1.7 trillion Ugandan shillings, the government of Uganda would go a long way in addressing many urgent and pressing needs of the people and changing the status quo. It would for instance:
- Meet treatment and care costs of 1,770,833 women with fistula considering an estimated treatment and care cost (less costs of a surgeon) of 400 USD (about 960,000 shilling) according to Engender Health
- Construct and fully equip 29,116 health centre IIs at an estimated construction cost of 58,387,200/= (24,328USD) according to the Health Sector Strategic Plan-HSSP 2000/01-2004/05
- Pay an annual salary for 236,111 doctors (fresh graduates) as per the current initial government scale of 600,000/= per month (7,200,000/= annually)
- Pay an annual salary for 472,222 teachers as per the current government scale of 300,000/= per month (3,600,000/= annually).
- Sponsor 404,762 students for university education-three-year courses paying averagely tuition fees worth 700,000/= per semester (1.4 million annually and 4.2 million for the three years)
- Meet extra primary schooling costs in a government aided school for 12,142,857 pupils for seven years at an estimated annual median cost of 20,000/= . According to the Uganda National Household Survey 2005/06 even with universal primary education-UPE in place, there are other extra schooling costs associated with school and registration fees; uniform and sports clothes; books and supplies. More important to note 40% of the school drop-outs are attributable to such costs.
- Feed universal primary schools for 6,540 years at estimated annual cost of 259,920,000 Uganda shillings. Going by the World Food Programme experience in implementing the School Feeding Program in Northern Uganda, the unit cost of feeding 1 child is 0.19 US Cents per day (two meals i.e. porridge and lunch). The total number of school feeding days in a year amounts to 180 days and the total UPE enrolment as per the UNHS 2005/06 is 7.6million pupils. Therefore the total annual cost of a national school feeding programme would be: 0.19USD cents x 7,600,000 pupils X 180 days= 259,920,000 Uganda shillings.
- Many other socio-economic concerns including: drug stocks in national health facilities; increasing access to ARVs; access to clean and safe water; access to credit for the poor among other social protection measures that this country desires to improve the lives of the chronically poor.
- Fully fund budgets of crucial government institutions and machineries-which are currently more resource constrained to effectively deliver their mandates. These include among others: the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD); the Police; Judiciary and Prisons Services among others
We therefore call upon our government to rethink and reconsider the government expenditure planning and priorities to those that address the urgent and pressing needs of millions of Ugandans particularly women who die every day due to delayed medical intervention; suffer the brunt of abject poverty in this country; high school drop outs due to increasing costs of education; die of hunger due to the increasing food and fuel prices as well as volatile climatic changes with very minimal government support and protection.