(By Estera Popowska)
Some €uro 11 million or $ 11.9 million (about sh34 billion) aid to Uganda from Belgium remains frozen as a sign of discontent over Ugandan government adamancy to export at least 263 medical specialists, 90 per cent from public hospitals, to the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago, Belgium deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has said.
The East African reported Monday that Belgium first announced the aid cut to Uganda mid last month. But newly appointed minister of Health Elioda Tumwesigye, while appearing before the committee of health in Parliament early this month, reportedly told MPs that Belgium had made a U-turn. He also told MPs that his ministry had halted the exportation of the medics to Trinidad, a country of 1.3 million people, in light of Uganda’s ailing health system.
“We are investing to strengthen the Ugandan healthcare system, not to weaken it,” Mr De Croo said during a meeting with the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) president Sam Kuteesa and Uganda’s Finance minister Matia Kasaija in Washington, at the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank last Friday.
“The aim is that the health staff should gain experience in Uganda, not abroad,” Mr De Croo noted “We discussed the modalities to lift the suspension, but at this stage, the €uro 11 million remain frozen,” he added. “Sending the Ugandan health professionals abroad represents a considerable weakening of the health system.”
The Ugandan government, however, continues to stand by its decision, which it says is aimed at accelerating “bilateral relations” between the two countries. Foreign Affairs officials said the matter is now being handled by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, which deals with externalisation of labour(The East African)