Uganda was notorious for its human rights abuses in the days of Idi Amin and Milton Obote’s rule in the 1970s and 1980s.
MSF in Uganda 2014
But today, the landlocked East African country of roughly 37 million people has managed to emerge from a disastrous civil war and economic catastrophe to become relatively peaceful, prosperous and stable.
The country has won praise for its vigorous campaign against HIV/AIDS. This has helped to reduce the prevalence of the virus – which reached 30 percent of the population in the 1990s – to single-digit figures.
Tok Maker Tot, 20, fled Juba – the capital of South Sudan – with his mother and 10 siblings after witnessing the shooting of some students at his university. His father stayed behind in the city.
“Two students from our class were shot,” says Tot, now in Kenya.
“All the students have now fled. Those who have money have gone to Nairobi, others went to Kampala, others went to Ethiopia. But we, who do not have anything, are trying to go to Kakuma [a refugee camp in northwest Kenya].”
On 29 September, a Ugandan man, aged around 30 and presenting symptoms of haemorrhagic fever, died in a hospital in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. On 4 October, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the man's blood tests had revealed contamination by Marburg fever.
“As with Ebola, there’s no vaccine and no treatment other than supportive care like rehydration, stabilising blood pressure, reducing the fever, administering pain-killers and antiemetics,” explains Dr Estrella Lasry, MSF’s adviser on tropical diseases.
“The last Marburg epidemic in Uganda was in 2012. It lasted just over two months. There were 20 cases and 45 percent of them were fatal. That same year there were also two Ebola epidemics in the country”.
MSF’s work in Uganda: 2014
More than 128,000 South Sudanese people fleeing violence had crossed into Uganda by October 2014.
MSF ran outpatient and inpatient departments, maternity wards, and an intensive therapeutic feeding centre at the Numanzi transit centre and in four camps in Adjumani District.
Our teams also provided malnutrition screening and water and sanitation activities.
When arrivals slowed, we focused on Ayilo 1 and Ayilo 2 camps in the south, carrying out more than 124,000 consultations and admitting more than 4,000.
MSF conducted three rounds of vaccination against pneumococcal disease and Haemophilus influenzae type B, the main causes of respiratory infections in children.
More than 2,700 children under two were fully immunised against pneumococcus in the first pneumococcal conjugate vaccination campaign ever run in Uganda, and one of the first in a refugee setting.
Meanwhile, MSF handed over its HIV/TB programme in Arua, where staff had provided clinical care, laboratory management, TB and DR-TB testing, and ARV provision for more than a decade.
MSF also handed over its MDR-TB management centre. Teams continued to work on improving access to viral load testing with the UNITAID-funded Treatment Success Project.
Marburg haemorrhagic fever outbreak
When Marburg haemorrhagic fever was confirmed in Kampala, we joined the Ministry of Health and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to respond.
We set up five transit centres and one EMC within Kampala hospitals. No further cases were reported.
Find out more in our 2014 International Activity Report.
At the end of 2014, MSF had 568 staff in Uganda. MSF has been working in the country since 1986.