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Minister Aceng Calls for Debt Relief for Uganda as COP28 Discusses Climate Change Impact on Health

Combating Neglected Tropical Diseases: $777 Million Pledged

Minister Aceng and PS Diana Atwine. Courtesy Photo

Uganda’s health minister, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, has called on developed countries to consider debt relief for Global South countries like Uganda, which are hardly hit by the negative effects of climate change yet contribute less to the fueling of the climate crisis.

On December 3rd, participants at the ongoing COP28 in Dubai discussed the impact of climate change on health and what measures should be put in place to mitigate the negative effects.

At one of these events, discussions centered around the theme ‘How does climate change affect our health.’ Insights from frontline and vulnerable communities helped delegates understand the negative impacts of climate change on health and well-being. The Climate-Health Solutions Showcase happened in the Green Zone where there were a discussion on several high-impact, evidence-backed interventions on climate and health. Also key was the launch of the 2023 Report of the Lancet Countdown on Climate and Health, with calls for urgent climate action so as “to protect health tomorrow and in the future.”

Meanwhile, countries and global donors pledged over US$777 million to combat neglected tropical diseases. It is hoped the funds will help improve the lives of 1.6 billion people. Reaching the Last Mile (RLM) hosting the pledging event in partnership with the UAE and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The UAE committed $100 million to the expansion of the Reaching the Last Mile Fund to support all 39 countries in Africa and Yemen where river blindness and lymphatic filariasis are endemic.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), was pleased that health had gotten onto the agenda of the climate discussions.

“For too long, health has been a footnote climate discussion. No more, after what we have seen starting today. I thank sincerely the UAE for taking this historic step and making health central to its COP28 Presidency. Thank you, UAE for being the pathfinder,” said Ghebreyesus.


Minister Aceng opened the Health Day in the Uganda Pavillion, with discussions centered on innovative methods of building climate-adaptive, resilient health systems. Aceng explained how climate change is increasing the country’s disease burden.

“The health effects culminate from several pathways that include droughts that affect the availability of safe and adequate water supply for domestic consumption, floods that contaminate water sources with disease-causing pollutants which result in water-related diseases,” said Aceng.

“The burden of emerging and re-emerging diseases such as the recent Ebola outbreak is attributed to the changes in temperature rises and patterns.”

Minister Aceng Calls for Debt Relief for Uganda as COP28 Discusses Climate Change Impact on Health
Minister Aceng speaking


She also explained what Uganda is doing to tackle emerging health challenges occasioned by climate change.

“To tackle climate change, the health sector is strengthening public health systems – health facilities and hospitals, sharing weather forecasts and health advisories with local governments, carried out focus visits to climate change disaster-prone districts,” she noted.

“Promotion of tree planting, one health approach, completed the vulnerability and adaptation assessment, and now embarking on developing the Health National Adaptation Plan.”

In an interview with the BBC, Minister Aceng emphasized the need for developed countries to cancel Uganda’s debts. Documents from Parliament’s budget committee in the financial year 2023-24 put the country’s total public debt at Shs 80.7 trillion (about $21.2bn).

The minister said there was “need for debt relief for vulnerable countries like Uganda that contribute very little to climate change but are feeling the impact of what has been created by the more developed countries.”

She added: “We need more support for us to address the challenges we are meeting in the country.”

Meanwhile, you can see the list of 606 officials, including personal assistants, who are representing Uganda at COP28 in Dubai Here.

Read stories from our COP28 coverage in Dubai Here, There, Even Here, and Over There.

This story was produced with assistance from MESHA and IDRC Eastern and Southern Africa Office for science journalists reporting on COP28.

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