By Kabuye Ronald
Members of parliament, civil society organizations under the umbrella body Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance (UAPA), ministry of health and Alcohol free advocates have called for stringent regulations on alcohol consumption, distillations and distribution at the commemoration of the World Alcohol Free Day 2023 which was held at parliament under the theme: With an Alcohol- free lifestyle; Expect more benefits.
The chairperson of UAPA Juliet Namukasa said that the Alcohol free day serves as a reminder to the shared commitment of promoting health, well-being, and social responsibility by raising awareness about the impact of alcohol consumption.
“World Alcohol-Free Day (WAFD) provides an opportune moment to reflect on the consequences of alcohol abuse and the importance of creating a society where individuals can make informed choices regarding their alcohol consumption. With this year’s theme, With an Alcohol- free lifestyle; Expect more benefits. UAPA aims to emphasize the collective responsibility we all have in fostering healthier and safer environments for everyone.” Said Namukasa
“UAPA is observing World Alcohol-Free Day to address the pressing issues of alcohol abuse, including its negative impacts on sustainable development, public health, socio-economic development, and productivity. The alliance emphasizes the need for a multi-faceted approach, including regulation of production, distribution, consumption, evidence-based policies, and supportive environments for vulnerable populations. UAPA urges stakeholders to unite in a society where individuals can make informed decisions, access effective treatment, and live in communities prioritizing health and well-being.” She added.
Hon. Sarah Achieng Opendi, the Tororo district Women’s MP also chairperson of the parliamentary forum on mental health who as well was granted leave of parliament to table the Alcohol control bill said that the bill is in the final stages and soon it will be tabled before parliament.
Opendi said that their aim is not to stop the public from taking alcohol but to regulate its consumption, manufacturing and distribution so that people drink responsibly.
Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the Director General Health services at the Ministry of Health said government is doing everything possible to regulate and control alcohol including the enforcement of the Alcohol Control policy 2019 and supporting the private member’s bill of Alcohol control bill since it affects the public and communities health wise, financially, physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually.
He said they want the bill to reduce the availability of alcohol like having timelines for being in drinking places, drink driving counter measures, regulate advertisement, enforcement of the stringent policies relating to alcohol, support alcohol control measures and research among other.
Dr. Mwebesa said that Alcohol consumption greatly contributes to the high crime rate, mental health, gender based violence, chronicle poverty, health complications especially by causing non communicable diseases, physical injuries including road traffic accidents, unemployment, low productivity among others. He urged drivers and pregnant women not to dare taking alcohol since it has far reaching consequences to them and their surrounding community.
It should be noted that Uganda has a history of alcohol poisoning which has not been given adequate attention to effect corrective measures. In August 2022, 14 people lost their lives in Arua city, Arua and Terego districts following the consumption of adulterated alcohol. The gin contained methanol levels higher than the maximum limit of 50 milligrams per liter. In 2005, 5 people in Kasese died of adulterated alcohol 1 . Between 2007 -2009, 300 people died due to alcohol poisoning according to reports by Uganda Youth Development Link.
In 2010, 80 people died in South Western Uganda as reported by Reuter’s staff. In 2017, 12 people lost their lives while 3 were adversely affected in Nangabo and Nabweru after consuming alcohol high in methanol. The record here shows only those who have died suddenly due to alcohol poisoning, however, the numbers would be far higher if those who die from alcohol-related Non- Communicable Diseases is included.
According to 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%.