Last Updated on: 6th August 2023, 12:06 am
By David Okema
Lamwo – Hundreds of South Sudanese refugees in Palabek resettlement camp on Friday 19, October turned up for treatment for various ailments at a health camp organized by Airtel Uganda Ltd.
The first day of the medical camp saw a huge turn-up than it was expected.
As part of their Corporate Social Responsibility [CSR], Airtel Uganda Ltd in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Uganda Blood Bank, Hind’s Feet Project together with regional hospitals conducted a two-day health camp at Palabek refugee resettlement camp, testing and treating blood pressure, dental, antenatal, cancer screening, HIV/AIDs testing, pediatric and safe male circumcision.
According to Mrs Judith Akullu Oboma, a medical worker with Hind’s Feet Project, most of the patients were treated for malaria cases due to their exposure to mosquitoes while sleeping in a tent.
“Almost there is a malaria case in each family here and for HIV-positive clients, we are starting them on drugs as per the World Health Organization,” Mrs Akullu said.
She noted that cases of urinary infection are also common as a result of sharing few toilets and bathing shelters.
Mr V.G Somasekhar who’s the managing director of Airtel Uganda during the visit to Palabek refugee resettlement camp said the health camp is the third this year after it was held in Arua and Kamuli districts respectively.
He said the camp aims to provide better health services to people especially women and children whose access to health services is still low in the country.
“Our decision to hold a health camp in Palabek is in line with our goal of enhancing and bettering the lives of Ugandans technologically, financially, socio-economically as well as in health-related initiatives,” Somasekhar said.
To boost connectivity at the camp, Airtel Uganda also launched a 3G broadband mast that will connect both the host and refugee communities within and outside Lamwo district.
The telecom company also gave out unspecified numbers of SIM cards to refugees with National IDs and Refugee certificates.
Mr V.G Somasekhar said the extension of connectivity is to allow refugees and host communities to improve their lives through trade, education and commerce.
“With connectivity, communities in and around Palabek refugee resettlement will be able to improve their lives through trade, education and commerce and a full offering of Airtel Uganda’s reliable network,” Somasekhar commented.
The Airtel MD also praised the Uganda government’s refugee policies and foreign policies towards humanitarian programmes as being the best in the world even when the country has limited resources.
As the government ensures the safety, protection and settlement of refugees, Somasekhar said the private sector has to ensure refugees have complete access to communication so that they can connect and trace with relatives across the globe.
According to Somasekhar, in the last nine months, Airtel Uganda has been installing network masts across the refugee resettlement camps both in Northern Uganda and West Nile regions.
He pointed out that normally as Airtel Uganda establishes new connections outside Kampala and urban areas, they receive complaints of low and limited technology but with the recent joint venture between Airtel Uganda, Facebook and VCS, a fibre optic has been rolled out to Northern Uganda from Masindi-Kampala, Masindi-Arua, Madindi-Gulu and Lira for fastest connectivity.
A mast being installed in the refugee camps is to ensure very strong connectivity on 2G for voice and 3G for Internet.
Mr Thembo Nyombi, director for the Rural Development Fund (RCDF) at the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC), says 3G is a network which allows people to access Internet exchange data at a faster speed
Other health camp partners praised Airtel Uganda for its role in rural-urban transition by providing reliable telecommunication services.
With the recent launch of broadband policy by the government that will ensure telecommunication services reach Uganda in its entirety, Mr Nyombi said Airtel Uganda has exceeded its target, urging them to continue improving their connectivity across all unreached parts of Uganda because Uganda Communications Commission [UCC] will also continue with its investor’s friendly regulatory framework to ensure businesses grow to serve all Uganda population.
Meanwhile, Godfrey Byaruhanga, the Field Coordinator for Refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister requested Airtel Uganda to also consider supplying affordable mobile phones in the camps so that refugees can buy them to ensure that their network is utilized.
He said the network will make payment of workers at the camp easy but he appealed to Airtel Uganda to ensure standard service in terms of network strength, especially in this new network coverage.
One of the officials of UNHCR, Mr Toolit said they were constrained connecting with 34 partners working at the camp to provide services to refugees in Palabek and he hopes that with the new Airtel Uganda network communication, the gap will be filled.