AIDS Cuts, Delays Hit Uganda’s Poor Health Sector
KAMPALA, Uganda -- The health project in Uganda for which the World Bank is delaying a loan does not face an immediate shortage of money, an official said Friday, allaying concerns that work to improve maternal and child health services could stall because of the country’s new anti-gay law.
The Ugandan government’s decision to strengthen anti-gay legislation has upset the East African country’s relationship with development partners, part of the unfolding fallout from the enactment of a bill over which Uganda had been warned there would be consequences. At least three European countries are withholding millions in aid to Uganda’s government, the United States is warning of similar action, and the Ugandan shilling has been losing its value amid reports of substantial aid cuts.
Now the World Bank is delaying a $90 million loan to Uganda’s Health Ministry - money intended for a project to strengthen the country’s health systems - because it wants to ensure that the development objectives of the project would not be adversely affected by the anti-gay law.
The $144 million project focuses on maternal health, newborn care and family planning - public health areas whose grim figures have long attracted the attention of foreign donors.
At least 16 Ugandan women die in childbirth daily, a shocking statistic that made the project critical in this East African country that depends on donors for about 20 percent of its budget. Announcing the project in 2010, the World Bank noted that without "significant investments" Uganda was "unlikely to achieve the Millennium Development Goal targets related to reducing child mortality and improving maternal mortality."
The project is set to close in 2015.
Sheila Gashishiri, a spokeswoman for the World Bank in Uganda, said Friday that the project will continue despite the postponement.