By Kabuye Ronald
Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC)’s journalist Ms. Mawerere Sarah has won the Africa Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) 2022 Tobacco Control Media Award.
While handling over the Award to Ms. Mawerere on Thursday morning, the national coordinator for Uganda Health Communication Alliance (UHCA) Mr. Baguma Richard Tinkasimire said the Award aims at recognizing the vital role that journalists play in tobacco control through generating compelling tobacco control media productions that expose tobacco industry initiatives used in undermining the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
Baguma emphasized that as tobacco control activists they will not give up the fight since Tobacco greatly affects health and wealth of Ugandans.
World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Uganda Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam who appreciated the media for playing a critical role to control tobacco usage before calling for multi sectorial collaboration since tobacco control is a health priority.
Over 80% of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low and middle income countries including Uganda, Tobacco kills about half of its users and accounts for 8 million deaths every year worldwide. Unfortunately 1.2 million of the deaths are a result of non-smokers being exposed to second hand smoking which makes tobacco control a health priority.
Boaz Musimenta, the chairperson of Tobacco Control committee in the Office of the Prime Minister said that the tobacco industry has now changed face in many ways including: its packaging and products on market in addition to shifting from litigation to advocacy as a way of making itself acceptable by the public and government hence tobacco control advocates must also change how they do things.
“We need not to just create awareness but also inform the general public about the different ways the tobacco industry is attacking our own especially the young people.
The tobacco industry itself conforms to tobacco control regulations on one front and then not conform on other one hence we need to do whatever that is possible to counter what is being done by the gullible tobacco industry” said Boaz
Boaz also revealed that in the next term of the tobacco control committee they will focus on appointing the enforcers because as they do advocacy, they must also enforce law.
Dr. Hafisah Lukwata Ssentogo, the acting assistant commissioner for mental health and control of substance abuse at the ministry of health said that a number of milestones have been achieved in regards to tobacco control including bring down the prevalence of tobacco use especially cigarettes from 17% to 3.8% as per latest Uganda Health Demographic survey.
She however said that the country should be worried about the other forms of tobacco use especially in youths away from cigarettes.
Ms Sarah Mawerere exhibited joy for scooping the award. She urged the media to always strive at highlighting the pertinent challenges of the communities and also provide solutions and alternatives to them.
Maurice Mugisha, the Deputy Managing Director for Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) said they are committed to promoting excellence in journalism by practicing objective and doing good.
He said as UBC they are offering their platform as vehicle for health communication and tobacco control advocacy agenda.