Activists are asking the Uganda Police to reintroduce enforcement measures that curb drunk-driving.
Dr David Kalema, a Consultant at Safer Initiative Uganda, an entity created by the World Health Organisation to find solutions for alcohol-related harms, says the breathalyzers campaign which came to be popularly known as ‘Kawunyemu’ had helped reduce drunk-driving.
He explains that the withdrawal of Kawunyemu as a measure to curb transmission of COVID-19 was a setback but now urges police to pick lessons from elsewhere and introduce safer ways such as disposable breathalyzers which can only be used by one person.
According to experts, alcohol and drug addiction are increasingly becoming a challenge that even as Butabika, the National Mental Hospital has raised an alarm that the dedicated addiction unit is perennially full, many times doubling its capacity.
Dr Hafisa Lukwata, the Assistant Commissioner in Charge of Mental Health in the Ministry of Health says the biggest challenge with alcohol abuse is the fact that the vice has been normalized in the community and therefore not recognised as a mental illness. As a result, she says people are watched as they drink their way to addiction without cautioning them.
Kalema says this challenge of harmful use of alcohol can only be solved by law enforcement in terms of bans and imposing high taxes on drinking. He says that behavioral change interventions can be used later on after salvaging the current crisis situation.
Last year, Tororo Woman Member of Parliament Sarah Opendi introduced an alcohol control bill in parliament with strict proposals on alcohol use and manufacturing regulations which she said will not only reduce the disease burden but solve other social problems including domestic violence and poverty among others .
However, this bill has attracted criticism from various sections of the public including manufacturers who say it is diversionary and regressive with many arguing that the country’s revenues will be affected and might cause loss of jobs once passed.
Richard Baguma the Secretary General of the United Nations Association of Uganda (UNAU) there is no way alcoholism and its effects will be dealt with without regulation.
He says that the delay by Uganda to enact such regulations will only derail efforts geared towards attaining Sustainable Development Goals in the next seven years.
Baguma was speaking on Wednesday to journalists during a workshop that focused on assessing how far Uganda has gone towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), seven years before the 2030 target.
Curbing alcohol and substance abuse by strengthening prevention and treatment falls under SDG Three which is about ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages.