How will government fill in the gap when donors pull out? [EDITOR'S OPINION]

The most recently passed and assented to Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 has taken centre stage in public debate, with those in support of the Bill acting indifferent to threats from the US, Canadian, and UK governments and the European Union on cutting aid given to Uganda over the Bill.

Uganda receives about $950 million (sh3.5 trillion) annually in health and development assistance from the United States government.

The above-mentioned administrations say that the bill is in violation of human rights as per the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The US government in particular, whose President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) has played a key role in the fight against HIV/AIDS, says the Bill will also affect the achievements made as it will make it hard for gay people to access HIV/AIDS treatment.

The US President, Joe Biden, condemned the bill, calling it draconian, and said Uganda would face consequences that include the cutting of aid and the reduction of American investment in the country.

The US, UK, and European Union have played a significant role in supporting Uganda in different sectors. For instance, according to the US Department of State, Uganda receives about $950 million (sh3.5 trillion) annually in health and development assistance from the United States government.

The European Union has since 2017 been financially supporting Uganda’s open refugee policy with an annual financial contribution of €30 million (sh120 billion). The regional body has also financially supported Uganda in the fight against pandemics such as COVID-19 and Ebola with millions of euros.

Uganda, going by the threats from western countries over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023, now stands to lose all this financial support.

How prepared is our government to step in?

The Ugandan government has its own shortcomings, such as rampant corruption and a small national resource envelope.

The government would have to put in place strict measures such as zero tolerance for corruption, reduce expenditure on unnecessary things, and figure out how to make the national resource envelope bigger in the shortest time possible.

Because the national resource envelope is small, the health sector will have to be given priority.

According to the Ministry of Health, Uganda has 1.5 million people living with HIV who are on treatment. Most of these receive free HIV/AIDS medical care thanks to PEPFAR.

Other areas in the health sector, such as vaccines meant for children, the training of nurses and doctors, and research, have been funded by both American and British money.

Uganda’s biggest challenge in all this, though, is the rampant corruption. How sure are we that the same government officials who say the country doesn’t need foreign money won’t be the same ones fleecing public funds to enrich themselves?

The ball is in the hands of the government to make things right. To take on leadership and find solutions on how to fill the gap left by donors.

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