Bibia Health Centre in Northern Uganda Reconstructed by EU-IGAD COVID-19 Response Programme

The newly rebuilt Outpatient block at Bibia

By Innocent Vuga 

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has handed over Bibia health centre in Amuru district in northern Uganda, after reconstruction and expansion worth more than UGX 920 million (nearly USD 238,000). 
The works were funded by the European Union, under the EU-IGAD COVID-19 Response programme. Managed by UNOPS and coordinated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the programme is mitigating the health and socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in seven IGAD member states.
Bibia health centre III is the designated referral facility for Elegu Point of Entry (PoE), at the Uganda border with South Sudan. 
Elegu PoE is characterised by high levels of trade. It averages more than 1,000 travellers per day, including traders and truckers, hence the decision to make Bibia health centre more functional, as part of Uganda’s COVID-19 response.
The improvements at Bibia have included:

  • Refurbishment, expansion and equipping of the out-patient department, including a laboratory and a store  
  • Construction of a two-unit staff residence block 
  • Construction and equipping of an isolation unit 
  • Construction of a larger in-patient ward and improvements in the maternity ward 
  • Construction of three drainable latrine blocks with a total of 10 stances 
  • Construction of an incinerator and ash pit

Officials cut a ribbon to open one of the new blocks at Bibia

For the construction period, the project donated two tents to ensure continuity of care.
According to Milton Okello, the clinical officer in charge of the facility, the in-patient ward was but one small room, with steel windows and inadequate lighting. The new block will have separate rooms for women, men and children, with eight well-spaced beds. Okello envisages that with the improved facility, patient numbers will significantly increase from 550 a month just before the reconstruction works started.

At the handover ceremony on 7 September, the Health Minister was represented by Dr Joseph Okware, Director of Health Services in charge of Governance and Regulation. Okware thanked the partners, describing border posts like Elegu, Malaba and Busia as key spots for Uganda.  
“To see that we have friends who have dedicated time and resources for us sort out issues in these spots, we don’t take that lightly,” he said. “The Minister asked me to assess whether the project was successfully implemented. And the message we are taking back is that the project was done well; it is complete; and Bibia is now a new Bibia.”
Representing the European Union Delegation to Uganda, Accountability Advisor Enora Marenne put the support to Bibia in a regional context. The programme, she said, had reached more than 8.9 million people with interventions in health; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene; Gender-Based Violence, risk communication and community engagement.
“COVID-19 poses serious challenges and risks to the capacity of health systems all over the world. Medical personnel have been working under extreme pressure, often with limited supplies and equipment,” Ms Marenne said, adding: “This is why the EU has been supporting efforts such as the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Bibia health centre, which we hope will benefit the most vulnerable population in cross-border areas.”
Ms Lucy Daxbacher, head of the IGAD Mission to Uganda, said: “We cannot wait for another pandemic to strengthen our capabilities to respond to health pandemics. Continued development of public health systems, increasing vaccine coverage against COVID-19 and digital health solutions are key action points for IGAD Member States.”

In a statement, the UNOPS Senior Project Manager in charge of the EU-IGAD programme, Rossella Monti, said: "The EU-IGAD COVID-19 Response programme is committed to enhancing the coordinated response to health emergencies. The unique integrated approach implemented in this programme is key to responding to the multidimensional effects of COVID-19 across the IGAD sub-region. The handover of the Bibia health Centre is an important step in supporting Uganda's COVID-19 health response and safeguarding the health and well-being of the community."   

Speaking at Bibia, IOM Uganda Chief of Mission Sanusi Tejan Savage thanked the European Union for the funding, and IGAD for the constant support to the project team. He also hailed the strong collaboration and support from the Ministry of Health and the Amuru district leaders.
“This project was unique in the sense that it was supposed to respond to the pandemic, but it also fell victim of the restrictions meant to contain the pandemic,” he said. “But we are grateful that the European Union was flexible enough to enable us get to this point of handing over a transformed facility.” 

About the EU-IGAD COVID-19 Response Programme
In 2020, the European Union committed 60 million euros to help stop COVID-19, mitigate its effects on the most vulnerable, and lay the foundation for long-term recovery in seven countries in the Intergovernmental  Authority on Development (IGAD) sub-region. These are Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somalia. The regional project is managed by UNOPS, coordinated by IGAD and implemented by, IOM, UNICEF, Trademark East Africa (TMEA), UNOPS and the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ). 
UNOPS is managing the delivery of 53 million euros of the project, to increase the capacity of IGAD to coordinate national responses, increase access to health and socio-economic support for vulnerable groups, and ensure that borders and critical supply chains are safe for trade. This is being implemented in partnership with IGAD, IOM, UNICEF and TMEA.  GIZ is managing and implementing the digital health solutions component of the programme.
For more information / media enquiries, please contact IOM Uganda Public Information Officer, Richard M Kavuma at | Tel: +256 312 263 210 | +256 772 709 917

SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being