Last week, the world's first SAFER review was conducted in Uganda, and the IOGT-NTO movement and our partner organizations played a key role. The hope is that the screening will lead to a more effective and protective alcohol policy in Uganda - a country where the alcohol industry's products and methods lead to major damage to both people and society.
SAFER is a program developed by the WHO together with other UN agencies to help countries develop and implement effective, evidence-based and protective alcohol policies. Similar efforts have been made for a long time when it comes to tobacco, while SAFER was not launched until 2018. The financing of the program remains a problem, but since Norway decided to go in with money, there is at least a basis to stand on.
Countries may wish to get an overview of the country's alcohol policy, of the current situation and suggestions for improvements. When the world's first "SAFER mission" went to Uganda last week, experts from the WHO and other UN agencies attended meetings with national government ministries, local UN organizations and civil society.
Movendi International (the global umbrella organization to which the IOGT-NTO movement is affiliated) is the official partner of the SAFER program, and arranged for Brenda Mkwesha, head of the IOGT-NTO movement's regional office in East Africa, to be included in the visiting expert group.
- This is the start of an important process that our partner organizations in Uganda can really use to influence for a better alcohol policy here, she says. They have done a good and important job this week. On Wednesday, they attended a meeting with the expert group and have also been able to present important information to the committee in Parliament that deals with alcohol policy issues.
The expert group's conclusions are not ready yet, but according to Brenda Mkwesha, development in all five policy areas included in SAFER will be recommended:
- Limited availability of alcohol through age limits, opening hours, number of points of sale, etc.
- Restricted or prohibited marketing of alcohol
- Increased prices through excise duties
- Efforts in traffic through lowered limits for drunk driving and more efficient controls
- Greater access to so-called "brief interventions" and support for those who need help
- Then it remains to be seen what becomes reality, says Brenda Mkwesha. There is a clear commitment from the Ministry of Health, but when we talk to the parts of the government that deal with trade and finance, the interest is not as great. This will require a lot of work from our partner organizations.
The IOGT-NTO movement supports several civil society organizations in Uganda, including the Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance, which works for an effective, evidence-based alcohol policy in the country - something that is largely lacking today.
In Uganda, for example, there is no binding legislation on the marketing of alcohol. Kampala is perhaps the city I have visited that has the most alcohol advertising, and it is often borderless. Surveys also show that alcohol advertising is very common in the vicinity of schools, even though it is not allowed according to the "standards" that have been adopted.
There are certain rules regarding the production and sale of alcohol, but the application is poor, and the consequences for those who violate them are virtually non-existent. A new policy has been underway since 2016, but has not yet been launched, let alone implemented - probably due to strong opposition from the major international alcohol companies operating in the country.
Facts / Alcohol in Uganda
- Among those who drink alcohol in Uganda, consumption is high, especially among men where it is 32,7 liters of pure alcohol per year according to the latest figures. The corresponding figure in Sweden is about half.) Intoxication is common.
- Alcohol consumption is also common among pregnant women. A survey from 2006 shows that about a quarter of women used alcohol even after they became aware of the pregnancy.
- Alcohol is one of the major risk factors behind non-communicable diseases. According to the WHO Progress Monitor 2020, this type of disease is already behind one third of all deaths in Uganda.
- Uganda has among the highest death rates in traffic in the world, which is partly due to widespread traffic sobriety.
- Studies from Uganda show clear associations between alcohol and violence and alcohol and HIV.
- The IOGT-NTO movement collaborates with, among others, the Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance, a network of organizations that want to influence for a more effective alcohol policy in the country.