Pauline Latham OBE MP has raised the issue of the severe malaria epidemic which has devastated communities in Northern Uganda in a debate in the House of Commons.
Addressing a cross-party selection of MP’s in a Westminster Hall debate on the Global Fund to tackle AIDS, TB and Malaria Mid-Derbyshire’s MP spoke strongly about her recent visit to Northern Uganda to assess for herself the impact the most recent malaria outbreak has had.
In particular Mrs Latham spoke of the impact on women and children and the inability of Uganda’s health system, including some of its top hospitals, to deal with the situation.
Mrs Latham visited Gulu and Pajule in the Pader district of Northern Uganda as part of a fact finding trip with the Malaria Consortium who work to combat malaria and neglected tropical diseases by improving preventative measures and access to treatment for the most at risk groups.
In the debate Pauline Latham OBE MP said the scale of the outbreak was shocking even to highly experienced practitioners with women and children dying in huge numbers, babies being aborted and stillborn during pregnancy after their mother’s contract malaria.
Speaking on the effectiveness of Uganda’s health centres and hospitals to deal with the outbreak Mrs Latham described how even some of the best, privately funded, hospitals in the region are completed overwhelmed, admitting 500 children into a ward designed for only 100.
State hospitals were so decrepit that there were no mosquito nets for beds or running water available for patients or staff.
On the causes of the outbreak Pauline Latham pointed to the cessation of spraying insecticides in homes to kill mosquitoes. Whilst the number of cases had been decreasing in one hospital, after indoor spraying had stopped, the number of cases jumped from 33 in April 2015 to 1,500 in May. This led to hospitals completely overwhelmed and running out of beds and anti-malarial drugs.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Nick Hurd MP, in response to Mrs Latham assured her that she has his “commitment to sit down with her and that the Department and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are on that situation [in Northern Uganda]”.
Speaking after the debate Mrs Latham said: “The devastation I saw in Northern Uganda was deeply shocking and I am glad the Minister has promised to sit down with me to address it and the Department for International Development are looking at the situation. A new programme of insecticide treatment for homes and nets is badly needed and I hope the Global Fund will look at what it can do to support this area in Northern Uganda.
Unfortunately any action now comes too late for some of the babies and mothers I met who will now have died due to the disease.
I will continue to work on this issue with colleagues and stakeholders such as the Malaria Consortium and Malaria No More until I see progress has been made”.