By Joviah Gonza
Public health reality in Uganda has gone through several changes as a result of several factors like; an increase in population size, climate change, the emergence of new diseases, and change in settlement patterns among others. However, the same public health Laws adopted during the colonial period, and last amended in 2008 are still used to address the emerging public health challenges especially during new epidemics like COVID-19 in Uganda.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed colonial undertones in the way the Western global health Institutions have propagated decisions and solutions on developing countries like Uganda without involving the people. In the struggle to contain the coronavirus (SARS-CoV2). We have seen an exacerbation of inequalities that are a result of power imbalances whose roots are as old as the colonial era.
As some experts have argued, initial safety measures against COVID-19 such as the lockdowns, social distancing and washing hands several times with soap have been a luxury for the poorest and yet policymakers did not provide adequate support needed to effectively address the population barriers to live by the prevention measures. The lockdown in Uganda forced the shutdown of many small-scale businesses from which the majority earned daily income. This is no different from the colonial era where lockdowns, mandatory quarantine and police enforcement were also used arbitrarily by the Europeans to contain tropical epidemics that arose within the colonies.
There is evidence that our systems are attuned to Eurocentric realities, which often aren’t aligned to local situations. The struggle for Uganda to measure up to such Eurocentric standards has resulted in what is commonly known as the white gaze and this has had negative impacts on the health of marginalized communities
Attitudes such as these reveal the patronizing assumption of Global North actors that countries in the ‘Global South’ cannot take care of their affairs properly and hence require intervention from the developed countries. This assumption is the main reason for the persistence of colonial legacies in public health laws and responses of Uganda. The imbalances also dictate what gets recommended as good response strategies to public health challenges in developing countries where solutions from the developed world cannot solve public health challenges.
Uganda, therefore, needs to create decolonized public health Laws and measures that are attuned to local reality through involving local institutions, and people that are cognizant of the context of the population’s aspirations and vulnerabilities hindering the achievement of health for all. In the same light, Uganda needs to take up the responsibility to direct public health to its destiny without depending on the global North.