Programme: COMMON MATTERS  - CSO Partner: HEPS (Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development)

The World Health Organisation promotes the use of Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) to improve testing and treating practices. RDTs are accurate and cost-effective and allow for testing even in remote areas with limited access to microscopy diagnosis. However, Uganda’s current import regulations do not regard RDTs as ‘medical equipment, consequently, these tests are not rigorously checked. As a result, bad test-kits flood the market and people lose confidence in the validity of the outcomes of RDTs. In the words of Moses Dombo (Chief of Party at Advocacy for Better Health): “The source of sub-standard Malaria RDTs should be investigated and addressed, otherwise one bad tomato may spoil the rest.”

What we did

Three TRAC FM poll questions collected over 10,000 responses through a network of nine radio stations. Malaria experts and clinicians were invited to discuss the importance of Malaria testing and treatment during interactive radio talk-shows. Results of the first poll convincingly reconfirmed that Malaria deserves more attention and funding, given that only a tiny fraction of the health budget is spent on it compared to the budget for HIV.

Another important result from the poll questions, as depicted on the next page, shows that one-third of the participants does not trust the outcomes of a Malaria test, or never had a Malaria test in their life. This result once more confirmed the lack of trust by citizens in RDTs.

Ensuring the quality of these tests is an essential step for the Ugandan Ministry of Health (MoH) in the fight against Malaria. HEPS-Uganda and TRAC FM, therefore, advocated giving the National Drug Authority (NDA) the mandate to import the tests.

HEPS-Uganda revealed the shortcomings of import regulations during a stakeholder dialogue with the Uganda’s Ministry of Health. This meeting, where the poll results represented citizens in at a high level of policy debate, led to a concrete point of action. After this meeting, the MoH started the process to provide the NDA with the mandate to import RDTs and carry out post-shipment testing.

Denis Kibira, Executive Director at HEPS-Uganda, attributed these successes to the radio campaign: “This campaign managed to inform the provisions of the Bill. The community views were crucial in getting the policymakers on board.”

"Advocacy is about opportunities. TRAC FM is fast and provided the right information in the stakeholder meeting and helped us reach our goals." - Kenneth Mwehonge, Programme Manager at HEPS-Uganda