Only five ambulances serve a population of more than 1.68 million people in Acholi sub-region in case of emergencies, Daily Monitor has established.
Acholi sub-region has eight districts that include Gulu, Omoro, Nwoya Amuru, Pader, Agago, Kitgum and Lamwo.
That puts the ratio of ambulance to the population at 1:33,600.
Of the eight districts in the sub-region, only five have operational ambulances that were either procured by government or donated by humanitarian organisations.
The districts with single functional ambulances are Gulu, Nwoya, Pader, Lamwo and Kitgum.
Gulu with a population of 350,000, according to Ubos 2014 statistics, is relying on a Toyota Land Cruiser ambulance, which was procured in the 2013/2014 Financial Year under Peace, Recovery Development Plan.
The Gulu acting district health officer, Mr Yoweri Idiba, says the district has two ambulances but one broke down and it has not been repaired.
In Nwoya, there is only one ambulance procured 10 years ago by government to serve a population of 137,000 people with funding from GAVI.
Complicated cases are referred to St Mary’s Hospital Lacor in Gulu, which is a distance of 40 kilometres away.
Omoro and Agago do not have any single ambulance. Agago was carved out of Pader in 2006, while Omoro was carved out of Gulu in 2016.
Currently, Omoro, with a population of 133,000 people, relies on an ambulance donated in 2014 by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah.
Amuru is also facing similar challenges.
The district with a population of 300,000 people currently has no functional ambulance after all the three broke down.
The chairperson Amuru, Mr Michael Lakony, said the Land Cruiser ambulance that was donated by Medicine Sans-Frontier 10 years ago was involved in a road accident more than eight years ago and it is yet to be repaired.
He said they are facing challenges in referring patients to St Mary’s Hospital Lacor since they do not have a district hospital.
Kitgum also relies on a single ambulance to refer patients to either Gulu Referral Regional Hospital or St Mary’s Hospital Lacor in case of an emergency.
The Toyota Land Cruiser was procured more than nine years ago by the Ministry of Health.
Dr Charles Oyoo Akiya, the Lamwo district health officer, says the district has one functional ambulance, which was procured in 2008. He says the district had two ambulances, but one broke down and is yet to be repaired.
Dr Akiya adds that although brand new ambulances were procured recently by International Rescue Committee, a non-governmental organisation, it purposely serves South Sudanese refugees in Palabek Ogili, Palabek Kal and Palabek- Gem areas.
Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the senior public relations officer, Ministry of Health, said plans are underway to procure brand new ambulances for all the sub-regions across the country.
He said government will establish a central point in each of the region where ambulances will be parked to attend to emergency cases.
“No emergency vehicle will be given to a hospital other than it being parked at emergency centres,” Mr Ainebyoona said.
In 2014, the Ministry of Health established the Uganda National Ambulance Service to address the need for emergency pre-hospital care in Uganda.