The year 2020 was the most challenging for WHO since the opening of the WHO Country Office (WCO) in Uganda. It was the COVID-19 pandemic year that brought all aspects of life to almost a complete halt. Like other public offices, the WCO was equally affected and had to close for the better part of the year.
Inevitably, the closure affected our operation and support to the country as we put more emphasis on supporting the country to control the outbreak. Working from home did not only require the abrupt acquisition of new technologies but was also a new normal to our staff accustomed to physical interactions in meetings, consultations, and guidance as they deliver on their responsibilities.
Suddenly, we had to respond to a fast-spreading deadly epidemic affecting the entire country, not from a central location as we usually do, but from our homes. This was not easy, but as we indicate in this report, we managed to deliver on our technical and logistical mandate of supporting the government of Uganda to effectively respond to the pandemic.
At the same time, we continued to support other areas of wok to ensure that Ugandans do not miss out on the most critical health services despite the pandemic. In this report we highlight our achievements in our areas of work covering Health Systems Strengthening; Health Security and Emergencies; Disease Prevention and Control; immunization, vaccine development, family and reproductive health; and WHO country presence.
In 2020, socio-economic activities including public health were significantly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in this disruption, we identified opportunities as we learned to develop coping mechanisms to the new normal including maximizing virtual capacity building, coordination, and integrated programming opportunities. We were able to continue office work in various programs even in the absence of face-to-face interactions.
We commend our international partners who generously contributed financial resources towards our operations and through these we were able to support the government on the COVID-19 response as well as other areas of public health work. This strong collaboration with partners is a game changer especially in disease outbreaks and we shall endeavor to strengthen it as we move forward.
We are also indebted to the frontline health workers including Village Health Teams (VHTs) and community members for the invaluable contribution to the COVID-19 outbreak response. It is unfortunate that some of these gallant colleagues lost their lives in the line of duty but their contribution and dedication to save lives are highly recognized and appreciated. We are committed to supporting government develop community-based structures such as the Community Health Extension Workers and the VHTs because they are indispensable in our work.
From COVID-19 response we have appreciated the importance of prepositioning supplies in districts that are vulnerable to disease outbreaks. This facilitates easy access and expeditious initiation of response to the various emergencies. The same is true for our field presence which we intensified by establishing a regional hub office to support districts. From the feedback, we note our field presence provides confidence among responders and stakeholders on the organization and implementation of emergency response activities.
We report on our activities, challenges, lessons learned, and ways forward for our office operational clusters. We hope that you will enjoy reading the report and give us feedback on areas we need to improve.
Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam
WHO Country Representative