- Alcohol-related car crashes are a leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults
- Alcohol use is involved in many drownings, suicides, homicides, and injuries
- Alcohol is the drug of choice among teens
- Beer and wine are not safer than hard liquor
- It is illegal to provide alcohol to minors who are not members of the family
West Nile- Part of growing up involves trying new things. Teens and adults use alcohol for many reasons, including reducing stress, to feel grown up, to fit in, because it feels good, out of curiosity, because their parents did, and because it is easy to get.
But right from Pakwach, the gateway to the eight West Nile districts to Adjumani, men, women and children sit on a round table on a drinking spree from morning, sunset and through the night till the next day. Farmers, civil servants and children keep on sipping the sachets amidst stories being told by others.
Some start drinking from 5 Am till late. They keep on changing the joints. Many are sachets waragi, kwete, enguli, malwa, Kasese or beers. Others believe that alcohol use is acceptable especially in families where the heads and leaders also drink them. Right from town to rural areas, alcohol has taken its toll.
Some drink heavily due to inadequate parental supervision, academic failure and unemployment. And others say due to availability of alcohol to youth, or community norms that are permissive of youth alcohol use.
Some of them look brown with swollen-like cheeks. One may mistake that the person is healthy but nevertheless, they are actually malnourished. It is just the effects of the hard liquor. Most of the sachets which are on high market contain 40 percent of alcohol, compared to some beers which range from 2.5 to 4.2 percent.
With support from Reproductive Health Uganda-Arua Branch, a group of women who suffered from beating and eventually losing their tooth, have formed an association Cunga Meno.
One of the members Ms Felista Okusaru, a survivor of domestic violence out of alcohol and resident of Okalimbe village in Pajulu Sub-county in Arua district, said: “When I got married, there was total love. But when my husband found waragi affordable like the sachet, he prefers it to beers. I sustained injuries resulting from the fights and two of my children left staying with us due to violence.”
Many of the group members, mainly women, have lost their teeth due to violence resulting from alcohol. She adds that availability on the market and beautiful adverts lures many.
“I don’t mind of the percentage of alcohol but I only don’t like children to take it because they have not known how the world is yet.”
Ms Felista Okusaru of Okalimbe village in Pajulu Sub-county in Arua district showing some of the scars she sustained due to GBV. Photo by Felix
The Reproductive Health Uganda, Arua Branch, is assisting the district to have into a by-law that will bar transportation, sale and regulate time for drinking. Some have lost their jobs due to excessive drinking. The sale extends to DRCongo and South Sudan. But if one thinks liver disease and car crashes are the only health risks posed by drinking, think again.
One of the addicts to alcohol, Mr Stephen Adroma, 49, a resident of Chama-ii village in Wandi trading center, has been named as Drunk Master as he started drinking at the age of eight. “My mum used to brew Enguli and Kwete and my father only allowed me to taste Kwete because it was soft. But at the age of eight, I could steal enguli and mix with Kwete and I got used to it. I do not allow my children to drink and smoke because I don’t want them to fall in my trap,” he said.
And, Cirrhosis- a lethal condition in which the liver is so heavily scarred that it is unable to function. Also due to drinking, some have lost jobs, family break-ups and unhealthy relationship with neighbors.
Currently, there are no restrictions on opening time of bars. Some bars are open 24 hours and seven days a week more especially in areas around institutions of higher learning, parks, streets, workplaces among others.
According to the Vice LC5 Chairperson for Arua district and Secretary for Social Services, Mr Genesis Acema, said: “We want total ban on sachets because it is ruining families, pupils and teachers. We want to regulate time for opening bars to be from 5 to 10 pm to allow people rest and get to work.”
The 2016 Arua District Alcohol Control Bill, is pending approval by Attorney General. The Principal Community Development Officer for Arua and Focal Point Person for Gender Based Violence, Ms Judith Drate, said heavy drinking was responsible for family breakdown.
“There are many complaints registered here of overdrinking and so men do not take responsibility of taking care of their families. This trend should stop,” she said.
Stephen Adroma aka drunk master speaking during the interview
In Arua, the education ordinance of 2008, Part 11 (ii) empowers Sub-county local administration to ensure that children do not engage in alcohol drinking. It empowers the leaders to arrest and discipline such children.
Part 18 (2) of the ordinance states that where a person sells drugs, alcohol or any other prohibited substances to a child commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one month or both.
Parliament is being urged to hasten the enactment of the psychoactive substance control act, the repeal of the liquor and Enguuli Act to regulate alcohol and drug abuse in the country.
But there is neither restriction on advertising alcohol nor sponsorship of national events including youth assemblies. Enforcement of laws on alcohol beverages in government premises, health centers and education institutions is inadequate.
The youths normally disregard the multiple risk factors that increase the likelihood of alcohol use. These conditions or experiences include individual characteristics displaying aggression at a young age or believing that alcohol use is not harmful.