Sunday, July 21, 2019
Wetaya Richard

Wetaya Richard

I have more than five years’ working experience in the media industry.

I wield a skilful pen as a writer and Iam presently one of the most proficient features writers at the "Features Desk" of the “New Vision”- Uganda’s leading premier Newspaper.

At the “New Vision”, I have given a good account of myself as a features writer and that has shown in my well thought out and deeply researched human interest stories, which have been published on topics such as maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancies, climate change, the importance of cultural customs, rising sexual harassment in Uganda’s health sector; amongst other topics.

Several of my standout feature stories have been published in the "Big Read" section of the New Vision.

For good measure, I also write for my personal blog called MasaabaChronicles.com.

Before I joined the New Vision, I had worked a broadcast Journalist with Signal FM radio in Mbale, Eastern Uganda.

My weekly show packed a punch and was very popular with the youth demographic in Eastern Uganda.
It was an informative and educative programme that essentially encouraged the youth to embrace initiatives that bring a value to their lives.

I am also into worthy causes.

Last year, I was awarded a medal and certificate for my participation in the Journey of Hope marathon walk; a walk whose set objective was to reverse the flow of child trafficking and unsafe migration from Karamoja-in the North-East of Uganda.

The 18 day- 467 walk began in Kampala-Uganda’s capital city and ended in Napak-Karamoja.

Iam also into marathon running for worthy causes.

For the last two years, I have excelled in the MTN Marathon.

I was the best runner from the New Vision and have gotten medals for my efforts.

My professional goal is to be able to open new horizons for myself as a multi media Journalist and to spread my wings as a writer; beyond my current environment.

I want to be able to bring my writing skills to bear with other platforms.

I believe writing further beyond my current environment will sharpen my creative writing skills for the better.

Other interests

Playing basketball-Several medals and Certificates recieved for playing the game
Philanthropy
Traveling
Writing Poetry
Hip Hop

Phone Contact-+256756096335
Email--jayrichards3@gmail.com

Ugandan Tour operators have asked the Ugandan government not to approve an application for a license by a South African energy firm, Bonang power and Energy (Pty) Limited, to construct a hydro power dam along the famed River Nile in the Murchison falls national park area.

Located 305 kilometers north of Uganda's capital- Kampala, the Murchison falls National Park has one of the most spectacular views of the Nile cascading over 23kms breathtaking rapids.

On June 5th, the Ugandan government through the Electricity regulatory Authority (ERA) placed an advert in several local dailies, acknowledging receipt of a notice of intended application for a license from Bonang power and energy limited to construct a dam near the falls.

However addressing journalists in Kampala, recently, the tour operators, under their body the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) implored the government not to approve the construction of the dam, saying it would erode the Murchison falls and affect tourism.

“There should be no approbation for this project. Thinking about construction of the dam at the falls alone,  is bad enough, even when the government says it has not yet approved the planned project,” Everest Kayondo, the chairman  Association of Uganda Tour Operators said.

According to the Ugandan government, Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Limited  intends to undertake detailed  feasibility studies and other activities leading to the development of the power project  whose proposed installed capacity  is 360MW.

In the notice, the Electricity regulatory Authority stated that the generated power will be sold to the Uganda Electricity Transmission company limited and fed into the national grid.

The proposed project, is located within the vicinity of coordinates 216’42.6”N (longitude) and 31O41’08.8”E (Latitude) which is said to be the exact area where the Murchison waterfalls are situated.

The project is planned to be established near Murchison falls in Kiryandongo and Nwoya districts.

Julius Wandera, the communications manager of the Electricity regulatory Authority confirmed to Masaabachronicle that the government had not yet approved the project, saying only a notice for feasibility had been issued.

The Tour operators however want the government to drop the project, noting that it is a bad idea for the tourism sector.

“The Murchison falls, combines three tourism aspects that is wildlife, hiking and the water falls so we cannot afford to lose them. We have already lost Bujagali and Owen falls in the center of Uganda,” Kayondo noted.

One of the largest tourist attractions in Uganda, Murchison Falls, also referred to as the Kabalega Falls, is a waterfall found on the course of the great Nile.

It breaks the stunning Victoria Nile that flows across Uganda’s northern region from the vast Lake Victoria to the deep Lake Kyoga and continuing to the northern tip of Lake Albert within the western arm of the great East African Rift.

To save the natural beauty, the operators penned a letter (s) to President Yoweri Museveni among other stakeholders, including-the Ministry of Tourism, the Electricity regulatory Authority, the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament-Rebecca Kadaga and Ruhakana Ruganda-Uganda’s Prime minister asking them to say NO to the proposed project.

“It is shocking that a heritage site like Murchison falls can be considered for power generation. We should look at solar energy and not hydropower at the expense of natural beauty,” Pearl Hoareau Kakooza, the President Uganda Tourism Association said.

She said her association, had also petitioned the South African Embassy in Uganda, to engage Bonang power and Energy (Pty) Limited, about the proposed project.

According to Kakooza, Murchison falls, is the only unique tourist attraction Uganda has, compared to other countries.

Just like the tour operators, Uganda wild life Authority (UWA), also opposed the move to construct a power dam near the falls, and asked the government to find an alternative site.

Bashir Haggi, the communications manager Uganda Wildlife Authority, said Murchison falls, attracts the highest number of tourists to Uganda, compared to other tourist attractions.

“Last year alone, the falls attracted 96,438 tourists, compared to 80,000 tourists that visited Queen Elizabeth national park. The falls are the icon of Murchison falls national park, we call it so because the falls are a must see feature,” he said.

Ultimatum

The tourists want the government to pronounce itself on the proposed project, within a space of two weeks, lest they take action.

Robert Kasande, the Permanent secretary in Uganda’s ministry of energy and mineral development, however appealed to the tourist operators among other stakeholders to allow the government finish the review process, which he said will consider views from all stakeholders.

“The feasibility study has not been undertaken; it is this study that will look at the environment and commercial aspects. The people making fuss over this are jumping the gun,” Kasande said.

He said the government had not yet decided on the exact site where a dam would be constructed, adding that there are plans for construction of more dams such as the 600MW Ayago dam, along the same river.

The tourists indicated that destroying Murchison falls, will not only affect the local communities but also the tourism sector which contributes 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the national economy.

The sector, also contributes 24% of the exchange inflows in the country, making it the biggest single foreign exchange earner to the country. 

The application for a license by the South African energy firm to construct a hydro power dam along River Nile has drawn forth, a lot of heated blowback from a cross section of Ugandans.

Who really administers people with fake hepatitis B vaccines and gets away with it, scot free?

Could the people found in possession of falsified hepatitis B vaccines from 8 health facilities in four districts by the health ministry’s post marketing surveillance team, last year and those currently selling body parts from Mulago hospital [Uganda’s main National Regional Hospitalpossibly be real doctors- who have predisposed to unscrupulous behaviour or quacks disguised as doctors?
 
The latter seems more plausible.

In recent years, many quack health care providers have brazenly taken mean advantage of the country’s weak health supervisory and regulatory laws, to set up shop in many villages and urban areas, across the country.

Numerous efforts by Health Ministry officials and the country’s Allied Health Professionals Council to rein in on them have bore little fruit and as a consequence, many innocent Ugandans continue to fall victim to their fake diagnosis and prescriptions.
 
“At the grassroot level, quack health care providers, operate right under the noses of health officials,” Fred Nayebare, the Gomba district resident district Commissioner, says.

While, to date, there are no reliable estimates on the numbers of quack medical personnel in Uganda and the extent of their services, it is an undeniable fact that weak health regulatory mechanisms have enabled their rise.

The issue of quack medical personnel is a harsh reality, which Winne Byanyima, the Executive Director of OXFAM international-alluded to in a commentary piece, she wrote, as the Ugandan government planned to import Cuban doctors, last year.

Uganda doctors had gone on strike, demanding better pay.

Weak regulation, she wrote enabled quack doctors to play with people’s lives.
 
In 2017, a rapid assessment of District Health Supervisory Authorities by the Health Ministry brought to light evidence of widespread quackery in the health sector.

Little has been done, since then, however, to address the problem.

In the village of Nsotoka in Kayunga district, for instance, quack medical practice has reared its ugly head, several times.

Brenda Nabisere, 26, had jarring experience with a quack health practitioner, late, last year.

The quack doctor has since disappeared from the village after Nabisere reported him to the Police after her ordeal.

Nabisere, a mother of two had gone to seek treatment for her malaria stricken daughter.

“I went to seek therapeutics from him for my sick daughter. I could not tell whether he was genuine or not. All I know is that, his clinic was accessible and many people in the village invariably sought his services,” Nabisere recounts.

The anticlimax came when Nabisere discovered he had been giving her wrong medicines to treat her daughter.

“My daughter’s condition did not improve, so I sought help elsewhere. I went to a clinic in Mukono and I asked the doctor about the mixture of pills medications, I had been using. I showed him some of the medicines and he was aghast,” she says.

Experts from the Allied Health Professionals Council, a body mandated by the Ugandan government to regulate, supervise and control allied health professionals and to supervise their registration and licensing, acknowledge that the incidence of quacks is a major headache for the country’s health care system.

“Quack medical personnel prey on the poor and ignorant. They put the lives of unsuspecting Ugandans at risk. Nobody wants to see a scenario where Ugandans are suffering irreparable physical and internal deformities or are having their ailments exacerbated by wrong medications and ill prescribed therapeutics,” Doctor Fred Nyankori, the deputy Registrar of the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Councils opines.
Dr Fred Nyankori Deputy Registrar Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council


Why quack medical practice is rife

Several health experts are quick to point out that quackery in the health sector thrives on account of the scarcity of qualified doctors.

“A shortage of health human resources in rural areas and laxity on the part of the district health inspectors leaves most rural areas open to medical fraudsters. There is no sector free from quacks but their pervasiveness in the health sector is worrying,” Nyankori says.

“In some areas around the country, communities have been complicit in shielding quacks especially when personnel from the District Health Supervisory Authority seek to question and apprehend them. The quacks see these gaps and take advantage.”

Besides a shortage in the numbers and skills mix of human resources for health, there is also the problem of poor attitude on the part of the existing health workforce.

“The poor attitude is drawn forth by perceived unattractive remuneration, insufficient training capacity; whilst some medical personnel are indisposed to transfers. These challenges unfortunately present an opportunity for unqualified, unregistered and unregulated personnel to exploit,” David Ssekaboga, the Wakiso district health Inspector, says.

Experts suggest solutions

Patrick Mpiima the Registrar of the Allied Health Professionals Council says for the problem to be tackled in earnest, there will have to be a concerted effort.

“There is a need for a combined effort to rid the country’s healthcare system of frauds. The combined efforts should involve the Police, the district administrations, drug inspectors and communities. There are a big number of fake and unqualified people freely issuing medications and treating people, especially in the rural areas,” Mpiima says.

Dr Patrick Mpiima 1


“People who pretend to practice medicine, but have no training, qualifications and registration from appropriate councils and authorities like the Health Professional Councils and the Pharmacy board should be outlawed. Anyone operating a clinic or a drug shop should be licensed by a professional body.”

Will the recently issued guidelines for Health Supervisory Authorities impact?

Doctor Katumba Ssentongo, the Registrar of the Uganda Medical and Dental Professionals Council says the guidelines issued by the health Ministry will come in handy in ensuring proper regulation of health practices in the country.
Dr Katumba Ssentongo 1


“The guidelines launched recently, outlaw any illegal medical practice. Local governments will have to step up efforts to ensure that no unauthorized drug shops or clinics operate in their jurisdictions without registration and without a license,” Ssentongo says.

“That is because there has been some laxity on their part, yet the local government Act 2001 gives them authority to manage health services in their districts. Henceforth, all local governments will be required to make a database enumerating all clinics and drug shops registered within their areas.”

In the Health Development Plan (2015-2020) Uganda’s health sector commits to ensuring provision of high quality health care for all its citizens.
Experts say if the above is to be attained; the sector must put into execution an effective supervisory and regulatory mechanism.

“Regulation of health practice and professionals is the mandate of health professional councils and the Pharmacy Board. Enforcement constraints and other challenges have however played havoc with their work and as a consequence, quack medical personnel continue to thrive. Our expectations are that these new guidelines will bring change to bear,” Ssentongo says.

Nayebare says for the quackery problem to be dispensed with, weaknesses within the District Health Supervisory Authorities will have to be addressed.


“A lack of integrity is stifling the District Health Supervisory Authorities.
How do unqualified people who on many occasions have the nerve to advertise their services operate without the knowledge of the authorities?” Nayebare asks.

“The apathy aiding this problem and the glaring other weak points especially those to do with integrity will need to be addressed. With the guidelines, our expectations are that there will now be regular and consistent crackdown on illegal drug shops and clinics run by unqualified people across the country.”


Doctor Susan Wandera, the deputy chief of party at IntraHealth Uganda; the entity that developed the guidelines and that has collaborated with the Ugandan government in training health workers, says the guidelines will strengthen health regulatory mechanisms at the national, regional, district and lower levels.
Dr Susan Wandera 1


“The expectation is that the health regulations, principally those dealing with quack medical personnel will bear down. Registration and licensing of drug shops and clinics around the country is still low and that calls for action. In general, the public needs to be educated more about the dangers of seeking treatment from unqualified practitioners. The government should also disseminate helpful health information in various local languages to help people steer clear of unqualified health practitioners,” Wandera says.

Ssentongo says sustained enlightenment will be key in both rural and urban areas to enable health seekers know what to look out for whilst making up their minds on where to go for diagnosis or to undergo treatment.

Government Policies

In 2011, the government through the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Councils introduced a web based system for registering all medical officers and dentists in the country.


The system developed by IntraHealth was supposed to make it possible to find out which clinics and drug shops are registered and approved, who owns them, where the clinics are located, and what services they offer.


Needless to say, the system was intended to weed out pseudo health practitioners.

Plans for the future


Government plans to set up the National Health Professionals Regulatory Authority; to improve the regulation of health professionals and their practices.

According to the Uganda Medical and Dental Professionals Council, there are over 5223 registered doctors in Uganda.

The law

The penalty for falsely presenting oneself as a doctor in the Uganda Penal Code is seven years in jail.

The Ugandan government has advised journalists affected by a stern directive by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to prominent media houses to suspend senior journalists and producers over abuse of the country's broadcast guidelines, to go to court.

The Uganda Communications Commission regulates the communication sector in Uganda, which includes among others, telecommunications, broadcasting, radio and data communication.

Addressing the Ugandan Parliament on Thursday, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, the Urban development State Minister and acting ICT Minister said the UCC didn’t error in issuing the directive.

Chris Baryomunsi

“the directive was issued  in view of an infringement in broadcasting standards. The Journalists who are aggrieved are free to go to court and challenge the directive. We should however allow the UCC to do their work,” Baryomunsi told MPs.

On Thursday, the Ugandan Parliament condemned the call for suspension of senior journalists and producers by the UCC saying it derails Media Freedom.

UCC served letters to different media houses instructing them to suspend some of their staff over an alleged breach of minimum broadcasting standards during the recent arrest of firebrand Ugandan Politician and Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.

Ssemujju Nganda, the outspoken Kira Municipality MP criticized the UCC directive, calling it a violation of media freedom in Uganda. 

Raising the issue as a matter of National Importance, Ssemujju implored the government to rescind its directive saying it casts Uganda in bad light, principally on the issue of media freedom.

Ssemujju


He said Uganda’s rankings on media freedom had dropped as a result of recent arrests and torture of journalists.

“A country that is battering journalists can only attract fortune hunters not tourists. Government should come out and explain the steps it has taken to improve the country’s press freedom index and put the UCC straight over the directives. It is incumbent upon the government to uphold the right to freedom of expression and media freedom,” Ssemujju said.

Baryomunsi however said the UCC should instead be commended for doing its work, in earnest.

“It is very wrong for us to condemn UCC, when it is Parliament that gave it authority to regulate the communication sector,” he said. 

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