In light of Uganda’s controversial anti-gay bill, some of the countries most notable donors are rethinking their aid. While there is speculation that “some African countries political leaders target sexual orientation issues to distract attention from their overall human rights records…”
One aid donation in particular, which has the potential to cause a significant blow to Uganda’s health services, is the postponement of a $90 million loan from the World Bank. World Bank officials have justified this actions by stating that they want “to guarantee the projects the loan was destined to support were not going to be adversely affected by the law.”
This mark’s the largest financial penalty on the country since the law was signed.
The Ugandan government spokesman, Ofwono Opondo calls the World Bank’s recent action “blackmail” while Uganda’s health minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, has made assurances “homosexuals will not be discriminated against when accessing healthcare” and for individuals to be honest with healthcare workers about his/her sexual orientation especially in matters concerning HIV.
Although it has been claimed health workers will still be required to abide by confidentiality agreements, the question is: will they? Even if confidentiality is observed, will these healthcare workers continue to provide the same quality treatment to an individual who identifies as being gay? Most anti-gay activist believe HIV is a form of punishment on an individual for being gay or just blame the victim outright for having HIV because they are gay. With this kind of thinking, will healthcare workers be unbiased?
Following in the footsteps of the World Bank, the United States- which provides a reported $400m in annual aid towards assistance programs in Uganda- has also begun to rethink its aid as a response to the passage of the law. However, Uganda’s health minister believes Uganda would be able to endure even without aid from the U.S.
In addition, Sweden is considering withdrawal of its aid, measuring ($10.8m) and the Netherlands has already stopped aid to Uganda totaling ($9.6m). Whereas Norway and Denmark intend to redirect aid from government to NGOs. If more donors took the same approach as the latter two countries, then the citizens who need help the most wouldn’t be penalized by their government’s actions in signing the bill.
Another cost to Uganda: the countries monetary current, the shilling, has begun losing value due to perceived aid cuts.
Will these aid-halting measures taken by such prominent donors reverse the course Uganda appears to be on? Probably not, at least, not anytime soon. In the meantime, what will become of Uganda’s health project which was designed to aid in maternal health, newborn care and family planning? Although a spokeswoman for the World Bank in Uganda maintains the project will continue despite the hold on aid, how long can it last under financial pressure?
Unfortunately, within the realm of politics, it appears that once again the people who are most in need of aid, are also the first affected by aid-delays incurred from penalties towards governments.