Vector Control Division (VCD) was created in the early 1920’s to control malaria and malaria vectors especially in urban areas where there were non-immune colonial officers and imported Asian labourers. Available records show that VCD performed these functions competently, unraveling the malaria endemicity country-wide. As a result, the VCD mandate was expanded to cover control and research on other vector borne diseases including Lymphatic Filariasis, Schistosomiasis, Onchocerciasis, human trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), plague, tick and louse borne typhi and Leishmaniasis. The control of pests of public health importance (rats/fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches) also formed part of the VCD mandate. The expanded mandate demanded an expansion of both scientific and technical cadres. Thus Medical biologists (Entomologists, Parasitologists, ecotoxicologists and Epidemiologists), Medical Officers and technicians (Vector Control Officers) were recruited. At first, VCD was headed by a Senior Medical Entomologist, answerable to the Director of Medical Services. The Division was semi-autonomous, with its own vote. Today, the Division is Headed by an ACHS/VC assisted by a Principal Entomologist who overseas most of the technical issues. The Division has personnel in form of Vector Control Officers in more than 69 districts where they work as District local government employees under the District Health Office (DHO) and in Health Sub-districts.
From its inception, VCD relied entirely on Ministry of Health for all financial support. However, since mid 1990s, the Division started receiving support for research, disease control and capacity building from several collaborating institutions and international agencies including the Danish Bilharziasis Laboratory (DBL), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Cambridge University, African Development Bank (through HSSP), European Union, Imperial College (UK), Hamamatsu University in Japan, WHO (Afro), WHO (Geneva), DFID (UK), USAID/RTI, Carter Center Global 2000 River Blindness Programme, and the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) to mention but a few. As part of south to South collaboration, VCD collaborates very closely with several institutions in Kenya, Tanzania, Southern Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda.
As a result of this collaboration, VCD has been able to conduct and conclude several research projects, some of which have been translated into national disease control programmes. These include the Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (PELF), Schistosomiasis and Worm Control Programme, the National Sleeping Sickness Control Programme and the National Onchocerciasis Control Programme (NOCP) now under National Disease Control Department. From these programmes, Uganda receives free drugs worth millions of dollars annually. VCD’s diverse interests in research and control of vector borne diseases are evident from numerous publications in peer reviewed journals and the production of maps to show disease distribution and magnitude countrywide.
Through these investigations, the relative importance of the major vector borne diseases is well known. Malaria is known to be endemic throughout the country, probably with 95% of the population at risk. A population of more than 16 million people is estimated to be at risk of Schistosomiasis. Onchocerciasis threatens at least 2.7 million people countrywide. Lymphatic Filariasis is endemic in 28 districts, with about 10 million people at risk. Sleeping sickness is also widely distributed in Eastern, Northern and North western with about 4 million people exposed and with a potential of spreading to other regions. Plague threatens about 0.5 million people in North western whereas Leishmaniasis is endemic in North eastern, with 0.5 million people at risk.