Uganda Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng (left) gestures during the launch of the Ebola vaccination exercise at Muhooti Barracks in Fort Portal City on August 30, 2022 (PHOTO | ALEX ASHABA)


Health officials at Uganda’s border points with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) and South Sudan have decried the lack of tools to screen inbound travellers for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

The government in a hastily-organised press conference in Kampala yesterday, confirmed that a 24-year-old man in Mubende District had died of Ebola Sudan variant, hours after this newspaper broke the story.

With the origin of the infection unknown, the news triggered panic despite assurances by the government that it is prepared to manage this outbreak or any epidemic. 

However, in various interviews conducted yesterday to assess the readiness at entry and exit points, border health officials said they had no machines to check incomers, no personal protective equipment (PPEs) and no gloves.

Mr Brown Oneka, the Amuru District health officer, said: “Our staff are out there doing the screening and checks for any possible cases, we have briefed them and they are aware of the outbreak and they are on high alert.”  

He, however, said frontline workers lacked PPEs and even detergents such as JIK to guarantee hygiene.

“… we have gloves and [some] equipment to carry out tests, but Ebola will require a lot of PPEs … if [the spread] gets serious,” Mr Oneka said.

News of the outbreak could not have come at a worse time for the seven health workers – nurses, clinicians and laboratory technologists - at the Elegu border post overwhelmed by ravages of repeat flooding.

In Kasese District, which borders DR Congo, where there is a subsisting Ebola Zaire infections, district health educator Agnes Mbabu said the thermal scanner at Bwera Border Point, a key equipment for detecting unusual body temperatures of travellers, was damaged in a fire incident six months ago and is yet to be repaired or replaced. 

“The machine we are using to screen people is effective but hectic, one has to keep standing to screen people all the time unlike in the past when we were using thermal scanners,” she said.

Leaders expressed concern that exhaustion could lead to loss of concentration, causing incorrect temperature readings or entries.

The Kanungu Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Ambrose Mwesigye, who chairs the district disaster management committee under which response to the outbreak of epidemics falls, said his team has been on alert for about a month following the resurgence of Ebola in the neighbouring North Kivu province of DR Congo.

Logistical challenges, he said, continued to impair response.

“… we deployed health workers at the Ugandan border with the Democratic Republic of Congo at Ishaha and Kyeshero to ensure that Congolese nationals crossing into Uganda are properly screened for Ebola and Covid-19,” the RDC said.

In Buliisa, where trade with and travel to Mubende, the district with the confirmed Ebola case, is common, the District Health Officer, Dr Alex Afeti, said they are awaiting guidance and logistical supplies from the Ministry of Health headquarters in Kampala, about 290 kilometres away.

“We have nothing on ground as per now, when we get what to use, we shall deploy our frontline workers, especially in Wanseko Landing Site on Lake Albert,” he said, adding that they had placed all health workers in the district on high alert to report suspected cases.

At Oraba, the Uganda border post with South Sudan on the West Nile side, screening of inbound travellers was already being conducted to fight Covid-19 before the government yesterday confirmed the outbreak of Ebola.

One of the health officials who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said “concerning the Ebola outbreak in Mubende District, we have received a message from the ministry to be strict in screening”.

He was a resident of Ngabano in Madudu Sub-county in Mubende District. He passed away on Monday morning  at Mubende Regional Referral Hospital.

Justine Nakyalire, 10 months                                                     

She was a resident of Bulega Village in Kiruuma Sub-county, Mubende District. She died on September 12 in Kiboga District. She was burried in Bulega.

He was an enrolled nurse at St Florence Medical Centre in Ngabano Village in Madudu Sub-county, Mubende District. He passed away  on September 15 at Cure Medical Clinic in Mubende Town.

Melida Nassazi,  56                     

She was a resident of Bulega in Kiruuma Sub-county, Mubende District. She died on September 1 at Mubende Regional Referral Hospital.

Betina Naluyima,  2                                        

She was a resident of Kakenzi Village in Madudu Sub-county, Mubende District died on September 15. She was buried in Bulega Village.

Patricia Nakaweesi, 10 months                                                               

She was a resident of Kilwani Village in Kiruuma Sub-county Mubende District. She died  at Mubende Regional Referral Hospital.

Josephine Kyaterekera, 43                                                                 

She was aresident of Bulega, Mubende District. She  died on September 13 at Mubende Regional Referral Hospital.

Compiled by Tobbias Jolly Owiny, Felix Warom Okello, Alex Ashaba, Andrew Mugati, Robert Muhereza, Naume Biira, Leonard Mbishanzimana & Barbara Nalweyiso


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