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HEALTH CARE SHOULD BE A 'RIGHT' TO ALL UGANDANS TO REDUCE SOCIAL INEQUALITY

By Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba

Dear readers,
The news that most of the parts of the Busoga region in Eastern Ugandan are now infested with jiggers is mind blowing and embarrassing to all of us considering that Busoga has been voting President Museveni and NRM in big numbers since 1996. For those who don't understand what jiggers are, it's a special pathological condition, caused by fleas of the genus Tunga. A jigger is also called chigoe. A jigger often attacks the feet or any exposed part of the human body, and when it burrows beneath the skin, it produces great irritation. When the female is allowed to remain and breed, troublesome sores result, which are sometimes dangerous. Most people in the developed nations know a jigger as a bartending tool used to measure liquor not as a dangerous insect as it is in Africa and Asia.

Now, as someone who partly grew up at a small village called Kisega( Kangulumira in Bugerere), I saw on a regular basis how jiggers affected people and what a lack of healthcare does to people. The next two major hospitals from Kisega are a lot of miles away at Nagalama and Kayunga towns. Health centers in the area are too ill-equipped to handle major health problems. As such I think health care should be designated as a special ''right'' to everyone in Uganda, and probably the whole of Africa.I'm saying that heath care should be as much a right as life, liberty, and happiness because I don't believe that only people with money should have X number of hours of a Doctor's time available. Health care should be accessed too by people who can't afford life-saving treatment because their lives are not worth less than those with a lot of money. Why should health care be any different from police, fire or military protection? Would one want one's house to burn down because the neighbor paid for fire protection and one did not? Everybody needs a doctor at some time, just as everybody needs roads and schools and fire protection. These are things that only a government can supply to the people they represent.

Yes, I acknowledge that none of those things magically appear just because I say people have a right to them. No one has an unconstrained "right" to as much medical care as they think they need, just as no one has a right to a private public-funded tutor for their kid or a right to have a personal fire truck and firefighter always parked outside their home. But I think the government needs to find a way to make sure that the less privileged can access medical care as the wealthy ones. The picture in the Monitor Newspaper of the woman struggling to feed her kid when they are both suffering from jiggers is so upsetting, yet most of these conditions are treatable and preventable. As UK epidemiologists, Professor Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett also said in their book entitled' The Spirit level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone', social inequality is one of the causes of the poor health due to a big gap between the poor and the rich. As such, I think health care should be as much as a right as like free speech and like free speech has limits but in general is unrestricted. Cosmetic surgery, for example, might in general not be considered health care. If one wants to look 20 years younger it's on one's dime.

Historically, National health care programs were first instituted by Otto von Bismarck in imperial Germany in 1883 before it later spread to the rest of Europe. In USA, former president, Harry Truman, proposed it to the Congress following World War 11, before it was defeated by a coalition led by American Medical Association. In his message to Congress on Nov. 19, 1945, Truman asked members to support his Economic Bill of Rights which included the "right to adequate.

For the meantime, I advice people in Busoga to put on Leather or rubber shoes which could shod their feet from jiggers at least as we wait for the government to address some of the social inequalities in our society.

Byebyo Ebyange

Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba
Graduate student in Public Health promotion in the UK

Blogs:
http://ugandansatheart.wordpress.com/
http://semuwemba.wordpress.com/
http://ekitibwakyabuganda.wordpress.com/
http://ugandamuslims.wordpress.com/
''We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society." (Hillary Clinton, 1993)