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Heinekens exposed: UAPA calls for Alcohol control law in Uganda

By Kabuye Ronald

Following a research and investigation done by an investigative journalist Olivier Van Beemen on an alcohol multinational company Heineken in Africa, exposing how its operations and products are affecting communities in Africa titled; Heineken in Africa: A multinational unleashed,  the Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance (UAPA) has called for enactment of an Alcohol control law.

Speaking during the book dissemination press conference on Heineken in Africa: A multinational unleashed in Kampala, Uganda, Juliet Namukasa, the chairperson of Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance (UAPA) said that like Heinekens all alcohol companies use the almost the same tricks to disguise as good for development and economic growth but not mention that they are costly to society and economy as brought out in the book findings.

She says that alcohol industry everywhere knows the weakness of the clients and they capitalize on it by disguising to be doing good for the country yet they are doing the opposite. She gave an example of the finding in Olivier’s investigation where in Nigeria the alcohol industry took over in the drafting of the alcohol control act yet its basic knowledge that alcohol industry can’t regulate them. However in Uganda the alcohol industry was put off in the drafting of the National alcohol control policy that was passed in 2019.

Namukasa says the current battle is with the passing of the National Alcohol Control bill asserting that the alcohol industry would like to lay their hands on it by being part in the making of the bill which the alcohol control advocates those interested in the health of the population are against.

From left: investigative journalist Olivier Van Beemen and UAPA Chairperson Juliet Namukasa during a press conference

She also cited out the availability of alcohol as one of the major findings in the investigative research. She says the assumption that people have the freedom and capacity to control how much they can take in spite of the availability of alcohol is wrong since from the public health perspective behavioral change is much informed by the environment in which people live adding that in Uganda today alcohol is everywhere in that its easily access for children. “Alcohol is freely sold everywhere and its adverts run during the time when children are watching televisions and listening to radios. The promotions of alcohol and their social cooperate responsibilities are done freely even in schools which implies that they are telling the children that alcohol is okay hence making it available for them”

Namukasa thus urged the government, ministry health and parliament to take a bold step and make a law since the alcohol control policy is not effective. Adding that local governments are struggling to have by laws because there is no national law to guide them and ease their work.

According to the latest WHO data published in 2020 Alcohol Deaths in Uganda reached 256 or 0.12% of total deaths. The age adjusted Death Rate is 1.67 per 100,000 of population ranks Uganda 74 in the world.

Other major finding from investigative journalist’s book on Heinekens that he conducted for over 6 years, done More than 400 interviews focused In 13 African countries (focus on local investigation) include Fraud, corruption, tax avoidance, Collaboration with dictators: alleged complicity in crimes against humanity, Sexual abuse of ’promotion women’ and Controversial marketing by the multinational company.

According to Int j Environ Res Public Health 2020 findings show that Uganda has very high alcohol consumption rates, with an estimated 9.5 liters of alcohol consumed per person over 15 years of age. This is drastically higher than the world consumption rate of alcohol (6.4 liters) . Even so, epidemiologic research on alcohol use patterns in Uganda remains relatively scarce. However, Weiss and colleagues reported a 78% alcohol use prevalence among Ugandan women who were at heightened risk for HIV acquisition. Among the women who reported alcohol use, 56% were classified as problem drinkers. Our previous smaller scale studies have documented a high prevalence of alcohol use and drunkenness (33.9%) among youth living in the slums of Kampala, Uganda.

The research also reported an association between alcohol use and commercial sex work, violence, intimate partner violence, HIV and STIs, alcohol-related child physical abuse and suicidal ideation, among youth living in the slums of Kampala.

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