columnBy Lydia Namubiru
Kampala — COME July Uganda will have a national alcohol policy according to Kabann Kabananukye, the secretary of the five person committee that has been drafting the policy for two years.
The policy addresses five priorities - intoxication, public safety, health impacts, availability of alcohol and research into the use and abuse of alcohol.
The draft says the incidence of intoxication will be reduced through improving licences compliance, improving the enforcement of liquor licensing regulations, increasing public awareness and understanding the impacts of intoxication and increasing awareness of management of intoxication by healthcare workers.
Pointing out that alcohol use is still a major contributor to road accidents, absenteeism at work, reduced productivity, workplace injuries and crime, the policy argues public safety and amenities are being endangered.
It suggests a response to reduce these public losses through investigating the current evidence base to reduce alcohol-related injury, reviewing Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limits for drivers, providing alcohol-related brief interventions, treatment and rehabilitation support for drink drive offenders, provide alcohol-related interventions, treatment and rehabilitation support for alcohol-related offenders, Introducing workplace policies that minimise alcohol related injuries and assist alcoholic employees and regulating access to alcohol.
The policy also recognises the health impacts of alcohol use and abuse and calls for interventions such as empowering heath workers to treat alcohol related illnesses, reduce stigma associated with alcohol and promote healthy consumption of alcohol through campaigns.
In detail, the policy lays out interventions to reduce the sale of alcohol to minors. It advises that alcohol commercials be monitored and that promotions that encourage binge drinking be banned. It also calls for the establishment of awareness campaigns that target young people.
Finally, the policy calls for investment of time and other resources into research on the extent on alcohol related harm in society.
However, not all anti-alcohol activists are comfortable with this policy. Some argue that the draft committee did not consult many stakeholders in the issue such as NGOs.
Rogers Kasirye, the director of Uganda Youth development Link, (an NGO that researches alcohol abuse and offers rehabilitation to young abusers) stormed out of the policy drafting meetings earlier in protest to what he felt was influence from the alcohol industry.
Two of the five people who drafted the policy were brewers' representatives; Marion Muyobo, the marketing manager of Uganda Breweries and Onapito Ekomoloit, the Nile Breweries' publicist.
Kabananukye, defends their inclusion saying it is only realistic to write a policy that is agreeable to them since they will be instrumental in implementing it.
"The alcohol industry can work to undermine the policy if they want to and they would be successful," he argues. Kasirye on the other hand argues that the industry has a duty to implement the policies and needs not interfere with the policy making role of government.
He further argues that because the policy making process was facilitated by the alcohol industry, the resulting policy document repeatedly highlights the purported benefits of alcohol.