Uganda Spotlight: The Pearl of Africa

Medic to Medic supports students in Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia. This week we want to shine a spotlight on Uganda to show a glimpse into what its like navigating healthcare and studying medicine there.


Uganda is known as the “Pearl of Africa” due to its magnificent landscape and wildlife. It holds much of Lake Victoria and is the source of the Nile. It shares its borders with Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and the Republic of Congo. 

It is also one of the poorest countries in the world. 

Photo by Andreas on

After independence from Britain, several dictatorial regimes caused many professionals to flee the country. Since 1986, President Yoweri Museveni has been in power and Uganda has made great progress. However, the Lord’s Resistance Army caused much violence and displacement in Northern Uganda. The region has been peaceful for several years since, but great disparity with the rest of Uganda remains. 

Uganda has still not recovered from the exodus of professionals under the dictatorial regimes. In the 1970s, the total number of doctors in the country fell from 978 to 574 whilst pharmacists dropped from 116 to just 15.

Even today, Uganda has only around 2500 doctors to serve its entire population of 32.7 million and a mere 360 pharmacists. Health services remain significantly understaffed, with the rural health centres being the worst affected.

These severe shortages are in conjunction with some alarming health statistics. The average life expectancy at birth is only 50 years and the infant mortality rate is 79 per 1000. 

And things only worsen in Northern Uganda.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) identified the severe health staff shortage as one of most critical challenges to health service delivery in Northern Uganda. While 72 percent of the national population has access to healthcare, in the Northern region this percentage drops to a meagre 30 percent.

Up to 65 percent of existing health facilities in the Northern region remain closed, even several years after the end of conflict. In Gulu, only 23 percent of healthcare posts are filled, compared to the national average of 68 percent.

Students from the Northern region are currently under-represented in healthcare training in Uganda. The region lacks educational facilities and teachers, making it difficult for them to compete with candidates from other regions, particularly in science subjects. 

Few manage to win the limited government scholarships available, and even fewer have means to pay the university tuition fees themselves.

Where Our Students Study

Makerere University was established in 1922 with just 14 students studying Carpentry, Building and Mechanics. By the 1970’s it had introduced a variety of courses and had become one of the leading universities in Africa. It now has a student body of 30,000 undergraduates and 3,000 postgraduates.

Makerere College of Health Sciences was incorporated into the main university in 2007 and offers courses in Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Nursing. It also offers several pharmacy Master’s degrees.


WHO Uganda country profile

The Guardian Uganda’s Healthcare System Explained

For more information about Medic to Medic and how to support students in Uganda please visit our website at

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