There are no term limits on Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, after he did away with those pesky obstacles in 2005. This year marks his 30th in office. In the 2016 national budget, 257 billion Ugandan shillings, or more than $77 million, was allocated for upkeep and other expenses related to his residence.
Meanwhile, the country's only radiotherapy machine for cancer treatment has broken after years of sputtering. The machine, once housed at Mulago Hospital, the country's largest, and recently moved to the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI), has been scheduled for replacement for three years, but the health minister cited "funding challenges" that prevented progress, according to a local newspaper. A new machine, and bunkers to house it, would cost roughly 15 percent of Museveni's personal residence budget.
Patients come to Kampala, Uganda's capital, from all over the country, as well as from South Sudan, western Kenya and Rwanda for radiation treatment. The director of the UCI, Jackson Orem, told the Obersver newspaper that 5,000 new cancer patients are admitted annually to his hospital.
China donated the machine to Uganda in 1995. It broke down regularly over the past five years, and an independent team measured its radiation levels and found that they were significantly below the required minimum for adequate treatment. In 2013, after an abnormally long 18 years of use, replacement equipment was bought. But it seems that funding for the bunkers is the real holdup. While hospital officials continue to ask the government to expedite the process, patients have been told they may have to wait a year or longer before radiation treatment can resume.
Orem said that 80 percent of his patients already have advanced stages of cancer when they are admitted. Radiation therapy can help only so much; he suggested morphine as a way to ease pain, and he said chemotherapy was still available to patients.
The frustrating story doesn't end there. While the machine was at Mulago Hospital, administrators there misplaced key paperwork that would allow the machine to be sent back to China for proper disposal. As such, more than $660,000 is necessary for Uganda to build its own safe disposal site for the radioactive material.
Along with other African governments in the Abuja Declaration of 2001, Uganda pledged to spend 15 percent of its annual budget on health. In the past financial year, that number was only 7 percent.