By Kabuye Ronald
The minister of health for Primary Health Care Hon. Margret Muhanga has said that the ministry of health supports the enacting and effective implementation of the Alcohol Control Law since it has derided the country’s development.
Speaking during the 3rd Uganda Alcohol Policy Conference 2022 (UAPC22) organized by the Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance (UAPA) under the theme: Building Momentum for Control of Alcohol Harm in Uganda: “Walking the Talk”, Minister Margret Muhanga said the vice of Alcohol abuse needs to be fought by everyone since its associated with health complication like cancer, heart disease, mental illness, disability and its leading cause of premature death for people between 15 to 40 years thus robing the country of its productive human resource.
Muhanga said that legislating against alcohol is one of the cost effective and evidence based ways of reducing its harmful use in addition to other government undertaking like banning the selling of alcohol in sachets and bottles below 200mls and enactment of the alcohol control policy in 2019 which are yielding some positive results.
“Government is committed to work with civil society organizations in the struggle to stop alcohol abuse and championing the implementation of evidence based cost effective measures to end harmful use of alcohol in Uganda in order to fast track the national development towards middle income status which can be achieved with people whose lives are health.
We need to reduce availability of alcohol especially to the vulnerable population like children and young people in and out of schools” Said Minister Muhanga
Minister Muhanga also disputed the assertion that many people engage in alcohol abuse due to unemployment questioning where they get the money to drink alcohol thus advising them to instead use that little money to start up small businesses as opposed to engaging in alcohol use.
She also urged parents to take up their responsibility of taking care of their children instead of leaving to schools, house helpers, their peers since they are the very people who teach them alcohol and drug abuse.
The World Health Organization WHO, country representative Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam said that harmful use of alcohol and tobacco are among the major social, economic and health problems in the society since they globally murder at least 3 million people and 8 million people respectively annually.
Dr. Yonas urged government to put heavy taxation on Alcohol products which he says it help reduce its consumption and the people dying due to alcohol related causes.
He added that any penny got from alcohol taxes, the country loses ten times more since after people drinking alcohol they are not productive, some get sick with mostly Non Communicable diseases thus costing the health services much money while others end up dying.
The Chairperson of Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance (UAPA) Juliet Namukasa and Dr. David Kalema called for strengthening of the legal framework to restrict alcohol availability including informal alcohol, setting up national coordination mechanisms to scale up and guide interventions or control alcohol related to them.
They also called for monitoring the practices of the alcohol industry to minimize influence on policy formulation and ensuring adherence to the law. And also encourage local authorities to come up with bylaws and solutions to alcohol problems in their areas.
According to the newly launched Uganda Alcohol Report 2022, it’s estimated that 5,671,785- 12,666,986 people drink alcohol in the country and that a total of 110.6 million liters of alcohol is consumed annually in Uganda.
The report revealed that pure Alcohol per capita consumption stands at: general population 9.4 liters, among population of 15+ years stands at 12.5l liters, among drinkers aged 15+years stands at 25.8 liters. The Alcohol consumption among those aged 15+ years: Used alcohol at least once in their life time- 52.6%. Current alcohol drinkers stand at 36.3%.
The heavy Episodic drinking stands at 20.7% among those with 15+ years, 56.9% among drinkers of 15+ years, 14.3% among 15- 19 years, 60.7-90% among drinkers only of 14-19years While the Alcohol consumption across genders: males stand at 17-49% and Females at 7%-24% with the nature of alcohol consumed standing at 11% for beer, 3% for spirits, 1% for wines and those that cannot be categorized alcohol at 89%.