Known as the ‘Pearl of Africa’ due to its magnificent landscape and wildlife, Uganda holds much of Lake Victoria and the source of the Nile. It shares its borders with Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and the Republic of Congo. After independence from Britain, the dictatorial regimes of Idi Amin and Milton Obote caused many professionals to flee the country. Since 1986, President Yoweri Museveni has been in power and Uganda has made great progress. However, the Lord’s Resistance Army has caused huge amounts of violence and displacement in Northern Uganda. Although the region has been peaceful for a few years now, there is great disparity with the rest of Uganda.
The Need In Uganda
The World Bank ranks Uganda as one of the poorest countries in the world. The average life expectancy at birth is 60 years and the infant mortality rate is 39 per 1000. Uganda has still not recovered from the exodus of professionals under the dictatorial regimes. In the 1970s, the total number of doctors in the country fell from 978 to 574 whilst pharmacists dropped from 116 to just 15. Even today, Uganda has only around 2500 doctors to serve its entire population of 45.8 million and a mere 360 pharmacists. The state health services remain significantly understaffed, with the rural health centres being the worst affected.
In Northern Uganda, the World Health Organisation identifies the inadequate number of qualified health staff as one of most critical challenges to health service delivery. Although nationally 72% of the population have access to healthcare, this drops to 30% in the northern region. Up to 65% of health facilities remain closed even several years after the end of conflict. In Gulu, only 23% of healthcare posts are filled compared to the national average of 68%.
Students from the northern region are currently under-represented in healthcare training in Uganda. The lack of educational facilities and teachers make it difficult for them to compete with candidates from other regions, particularly in science subjects. Few manage to win the limited government scholarships available and even fewer have means to pay the university tuition fees themselves.
Where We Work In Uganda
Makerere University was established in 1922 with just 14 students studying carpentry, building and mechanics. By the 1970’s it had introduced a variety of courses and had become one of the leading universities in Africa. It now has a student body of 30,000 undergraduates and 3,000 postgraduates. Makerere college of health sciences was incorporated into the main university in 2007 and offers courses in medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, nursing and other health cadres, including masters degrees.
Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), commonly known as Mbarara University was established in 1989 with only 43 students in the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB). Over the years, MUST has introduced a variety of courses and has become one of the leading universities in Africa. By January 2022, It had 6 faculties and two campuses. By January 2023, it had 6043 undergraduates, 1325 postgraduates and 19969 alumni. MUST Faculty of Medicine (FoM) was the pioneer faculty at the University. By May 2023, FoM had 6 undergraduate programs: medicine, nursing, medical laboratory sciences, pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences and physiotherapy. The faculty offers 23 different masters programs.