public health.

URBAN FLOODS: A WAKE-UP CALL FOR UGANDA BUT ARE WE READY TO ACT?   

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Cliff Abenaitwe

Traditionally, rainfall was celebrated because it is believed to be a blessing from the creator. For farmers, it should be celebrated much more since over 85 percent of farmers in Uganda depend on it for agriculture. Even in urban areas, rainfall would mean life to urban farms and gardens, more rain water – hence a saving on the water bills and much more.

However, the situation has over the years been changing from good to bad and now it is worse. Rain is now more cursed than cherished in both urban and rural areas. What a pity!

A modern saying in Uganda goes that ‘Water is life when you are not staying in Bwaise’. Bwaise is one of the suburbs of Uganda’s Capital City- Kampala that is prone to floods.

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This is part of Bwaise Town- a place well known for flooding in Kampala City

What used to be a Bwaise problem however is now in many other urban areas.

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Many Kampala suburbs have for long suffered from floods. This is Kalerwe which is less than 10 Kilometres from Kampala City Centre. Kalerwe neighbors Bwaise

In March 2018 alone- Mbarara, Rukiga (Muhanga town) and Kabale towns among others saw the worst floods in their recent past and this is a sign of what has gone wrong over the years and what is likely to come.

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On March 14, 2018, Mbarara town experienced the worst flooding in over 15 years. This is Part of a hotel that was flooded. 

In rural Uganda, the writing has for long been over the wall. The rate of environmental degradation has been growing to alarming levels presently. Hill slope forest cover has been decreasing daily, the hill slopes are poorly cultivated, bush burning has persisted while the wetlands in the low lying areas have been encroached on for agricultural practices- making mudslides, soil erosion and subsequent flooding inevitable. These floods for many years have been far in rural areas, away from the public limelight and wide mass media coverage.

However, now that the ‘flood spirits’ have invaded the urban areas, where mass media coverage is high, it is now time to wake up to the mess that has befallen our areas.

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This part of Kampala is a stone throw from the City centre

Much talk has for years centred on the rate of environmental degradation in rural areas but this phenomenon is real in urban areas. The biggest portion of wetlands in urban areas have been degraded mainly for human settlement and many forests have been degazetted. This is dangerous for our urban areas. To make matters worse, our urban areas have no adequate planning for drainage channels as well poorly planned human settlements.

Way Forward

In many of the big urban areas, the damage has already been done and little can be done to lessen the flooding cases- but still something can be done and must be done immediately. All buildings should have a rain water harvesting system or plan in place. This would ultimately lessen the amount of water from the roofs to the surface. Also, urban drainage channels must be opened and maintained. We cannot afford a situation where rain water finds its way to wherever it wants. Our urban areas must have more trees planted and more green belts while all buildings must be on plan and the approval of such plans must be based on technical guidance not corrupt tendencies. For the growing towns, this is the time to have the necessary plans in place to mitigate future problems like this. If such floods are not lessened, loss of lives, destruction of infrastructure, disruption of transport and business as well as spread of water-borne diseases will continue in Uganda.

In a nutshell, urban and rural floods are a sign of something gone wrong. We must take them as a warning of more danger to come and a springboard to action. In Uganda, we are found of calling government to act but in this case, government alone cannot do much. We all must join hands to protect the environment and promote sustainable urban growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrities Rallied on Tobacco Control

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Cliff Abenaitwe

Seeing people smoking in a music video or a movie is a common scene not only in Uganda but globally. CelebritiesThese scenes make smoking look fancy and this has far reaching consequences on the people especially the youth who look at musicians and movie stars as role models.

Health activists involved in tobacco control are concerned by this trend and want an end to it.

Andrew Kwizera, the Technical Resource Person in charge of the East African region for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids- a global Organisation on Tobacco Control says that many celebrities show scenes of smoking in music videos and films yet many are seen as role models to the youth. “Many young people who follow these stars have adopted smoking. This is setting a bad image to these innocent young people”, Kwizera observes adding that as a result of smoking, young people have been exposed to various tobacco related diseases which are hard and expensive to treat.

Bob Marley
Photographs like this of the legendary music icon Bob Marley smoking are common with celebrities.

Statistics from the World Health Organization reveal that the average age of debutant smokers is 12-14 years globally.

According to Richard Baguma  Tinkasimire, the coordinator Uganda Health Communication Alliance- one of the organizations at the forefront of tobacco control campaign in Uganda, young people are easily lured into smoking mainly by peer pressure and copying those they look at as role models. “Parents, leaders and celebrities must set a good example to the young generation and make children pick the best practices from them. Acts like smoking or tobacco consumption in any form should be discouraged”, he explains.

As part of the efforts to promote a smoking free generation, health activists in Uganda have adopted the use of musicians and other celebrities in the tobacco control campaigns.

Sophie Gombya- a household name in Uganda’s music industry is one of the Tobacco control ambassadors. “It’s true we have a big following, we have power to influence behavior directly or indirectly. As musicians and celebrities must be aware that what we do and show impacts on our followers.

Sophie Gombya- a Tobacco Control Ambassador
Sophie Gombya- a Tobacco Control Ambassador. 

We must therefore be mindful not to encourage bad habits like smoking among the people especially the youth who follow and adore us”, the vibrant Gombya explains. 

Apart from Gombya, the Tobacco control fraternity has also used people like the Uganda National Netball Team- the ‘She Cranes’ to rally people against Tobacco- a move that Baguma says is paying off.

The Legal Framework

Uganda is a signatory of to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Article 13 (4a) prohibits all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship that promote tobacco product by any means that are false, misleading, or deceptive or likely to create an erroneous impression about its characteristics, health effects, hazards or emissions.

Uganda’s Tobacco Control Act of 2015 also bans promotion and advertising of tobacco products, open display of tobacco products and selling of tobacco products to minors among others.

Whether showing of smoking scenes in movies and music videos is deliberate to lure people into this act, it is a clear breach of the law and the reality is- it ought to stop.

According to Kokulinda Lutgard, the head of Tanzania Tobacco Control Alliance, musicians and other celebrities have a huge impact on their following and can play a great role in Tobacco control but also everyone has a character to play in this campaign.

The Global Tobacco Burden

According to health experts, Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics show that Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year worldwide with more than 6 million of those deaths as a result of direct tobacco use while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

The most worrying fact is that nearly 80 percent of the world’s more than 1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest and alarming.

Over the years, significant strides have been made in Tobacco Control but this is more in developed countries than in the developing world.

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Graphic pack warnings are being scaled-up in many countries to raise awareness about the dangers of Tobacco Consumption.  

A 2017 report by WHO on “Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies” reveal that more countries have implemented tobacco control policies, ranging from graphic pack warnings and advertising bans to no smoking areas. About 4.7 billion people – 63 percent of the world’s population are covered by at least one comprehensive tobacco control measure, which has quadrupled since 2007 when only 1 billion people and 15 percent of the world’s population were covered.

 

Uganda has an estimated 1.3 Million smokers- according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) report of 2013 with each smoker spending an average of 20, 730 Shillings (about 6 USD) on manufactured cigarettes per month.

Kidney Transplant Survival Up Among Babies

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Survival rates for children who get kidney transplants have improved significantly over the last half-century, a new study finds.

“The outlook for infants and children with end-stage kidney disease was once dismal, with poor survival rates after transplant. There has been great progress in pediatric kidney transplantation, and now the patient survival rate is almost 100 percent,” said the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Srinath Chinnakotla.kidney

Chinnakotla is an associate professor of surgery at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, where the study was done.

Since 2002, 97 percent of children who had kidney transplants at the hospital were alive a year later. That compares to 85 percent 40 to 50 years ago, the study showed. Read More..

Comment:

This is absolutely good news and light at the end of the tunnel. With this break-through, more children will survive kidney transplant and this is a strong foundation for further improvements in the entire health system. However, as we celebrate this good news, it is equally important to think about thousands if not millions of disadvantaged children who desperately need a kidney transplant but cannot be saved either because of the poor economic nature of their families or lack of such services in major health facilities nearby.

Source: MedlinePlus

Comment by: Cliff Abenaitwe

Cutting Salt a Health Boost for Kidney Patients

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Blood pressure and fluid retention improve in those counseled by dietitians, small study shows

Encouraging people with kidney disease to reduce their salt intake may help improve blood pressure and cut excess fluid retention, at least for a while, a new study suggests.

Study participants lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number)

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Reduction of salt intake helps improve blood pressure and cut excess fluid retention among people with Kidney disease

by almost 11 points, on average, on a salt-restricted diet versus their usual diet. They also flushed out a liter of water (about one-quart) from their bodies, on average, by slashing salt in their diets, researchers said.

 

Having high blood pressure and retaining excess salt and water in the body stresses the heart and blood vessels, explained lead author Dr. Rajiv Saran of the University of Michigan.

For kidney disease patients, high blood pressure (or “hypertension”) and excess fluid in the body can be a toxic combination. “They die predominantly of cardiovascular disease,” said Saran, a professor of internal medicine and epidemiology in the nephrology division.

Yet doctors rarely have time or make time to counsel each patient about salt-restricted diets, he said.

Saran and co-investigators wondered whether having trained dietitians talk to patients with chronic kidney disease by phone or in person about ways to lower daily sodium intake would make a difference. Read More

SOURCE: medlineplus.gov

New clinical guideline issued for treating low back pain

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Low back pain affects millions of people in the United States, and the condition is one of the most common reasons for people missing work. lbp2New guidelines from the American College of Physicians recommend noninvasive ways of treating nonradicular low back pain.

The American Chiropractic Association (ACA)

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Low back pain is responsible for many people missing work today worldwide 

report that approximately 31 million U.S. individuals experience low back pain at one point during their lives. The ACA also note that low back pain is the leading cause of disability across the world, as well as one of the most popular reasons why people miss work.

 

The condition accounts for a large proportion of all doctor visits in the U.S., and almost 25 percent of the entire adult population in the U.S. has experienced at least one day of low back pain in the past 3 months.

Read More 

Quote: medicalnewstoday.com

HIV clinic fined £250 for data breach

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A health clinic that mistakenly revealed the identity of HIV-positive patients in a group email has been fined £250 by the UK’s data watchdog.

The Bloomsbury Patient Network provides information and support for people who are HIV-positive.

But twice in 2014, staff emailed up to 200 members at a time without obscuring other patients’ email addresses. Read More..

Source: BBC

Farmers urged to cut antibiotic use

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Farmers need to dramatically cut the amount of antibiotics used in agriculture, because of the threat to human health, a report says.

Some infections are becoming almost impossible to treat, because of the excessive use of antibiotics.

And more than half of those used around the world are used in animals, often to make them grow more quickly.

The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance called for new targets on the amount of antibiotics used.

The great threat of excessive antibiotics piguse in agriculture was highlighted in China last month.

Scientists warned the world was on the cusp of the “post-antibiotic era” after discovering bacteria resistant to the antibiotic colistin – the medication used when all others have failed. (Read more)—-

Source: bbc.com