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More families taking booze due to COVID-19 – health ministry

by Editorial Team
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By Violet Nabatanzi

Authorities at the Ministry of Health are worried about the increased number of people taking alcohol from their homes due to  the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Dr. Hafsa Lukwata, the acting assistant commissioner for mental health and control of substance abuse at the ministry, expressed concern that there are some people who had never taken alcohol from their homes, but during the pandemic, they decided to take it.

“One of the issues we have found during COVID-19 is that of alcohol being served in ways that it has never been served. Before, children were told not to take alcohol, but this time around, some parents have been taking it together with their families,’’ she said

About 20% of the admissions at Butabika National Referral Hospital are due to alcohol or other drugs. Data from the 2014 World Health Organization nationwide non-communicable risk factor survey (STEPS) showed that 25.9% men and 14.3% in Uganda were alcohol users.

Speaking during an alcohol control project conference at  Gudie Leisure Farm in Najjeera, Lukwata said a person who does not take alcohol by the age of 21 has 60% chances of not taking the substance in life.

Experts also appealed to the Police to reinstate breathalysers, saying they were a good intervention. A breathalyser measures how much alcohol is in the air you breathe out.

Prof. Robert Basaza, the president of the Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH), called for the sensitisation of the public to avoid excessive use of alcohol.

UNACOH implemented alcohol control in the districts of Jinja and Masindi with the aim of reducing risky alcohol consumption among vulnerable and high-risk groups, legal restrictions on density of alcohol outlets, as well as accessibility to minors.

The project also focused on advocacy for alcohol control at sub-county and district levels.

The Masindi district focal point person for the Alcohol Control Project, William Mugayo, said the recent survey in the district indicated that more than 25% of people were taking alcohol.

He said the project, which started in Kinyara -Budongo sub-county, helped them to enact alcohol control bylaws at the district which managed to bring the number of people drinking alcohol down. The project was also implemented in other sub-counties.


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