Uganda

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

ROTARY BOOST GLOBAL FIGHT AGAINST POLIO

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The fight against Polio has been boosted by a new grant from Rotary International- the largest group of committed volunteering men and women committed to serve and change the world.

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Immunization is the only way to prevent Polio

Rotary has announced $35 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio, bringing the humanitarian service organization’s contribution to $140 million since January 2016.

Nearly half of the funds Rotary announced January 2017 ($16.15 million) will support the emergency response campaigns in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin (Chad, northern Cameroon, southern Niger and Central African Republic). Four cases of polio were detected in Nigeria in 2016, which had previously not seen a case since July 2014.

With these cases, funding is needed to support rapid response plans in Nigeria and surrounding countries to stop the outbreak.

While significant strides have been made against the paralyzing disease, with just 35 cases reported in 2016, polio remains a threat in hard-to-reach and underserved areas, and conflict zones. To sustain this progress, and protect all children from polio, experts say $1.5 billion is needed.

In addition to supporting the response in the Lake Chad Basin region, funding has been allocated to support polio eradication efforts in Afghanistan ($7.15 million), Pakistan ($4.2 million), Somalia ($4.64 million), and South Sudan ($2.19 million). A final grant in the amount of $666,845 will support technical assistance in UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Office.

Rotary has contributed more than $1.6 billion, including matching funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and countless volunteer hours since launching its polio immunization program, PolioPlus, in 1985. In 1988, Rotary became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and was later joined by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 35 confirmed in 2016, and no cases in 2017 so far.

What is Polio?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children.

The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented by immunization.

Key Facts about Polio

  • Polio (poliomyelitis) mainly affects children under 5 years of age.
  • 1 in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.

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    In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent.
  • Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases then, to 74 reported cases in 2015. The reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease.
  • As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.
  • In most countries, the global effort has expanded capacities to tackle other infectious diseases by building effective surveillance and immunization systems

About Rotary

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects over 1.2 million members of more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas.

Source: www.rotary.org

 

Close But Too Far: The Health Tale of the Batwa in Uganda

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By Cliff Abenaitwe

The 1995 Constitution of Uganda (Third schedule) recognizes 56 indigenous communities that existed in Uganda as at 1st February, 1926. One of these communities is the Batwa tribe- a unique group of indigenous people.

For generations, the Batwa lived in the forests of the Kigezi region (Kabale, Kanungu and Kisoro districts in Western Uganda), Eastern Congo and the forests of North Western Rwanda. Their way of life entirely depended of the forests.

These areas were not only for shelter but were sources of food, medicine as well as worshiping places. In the early 1990’s government gazetted areas where they lived as conservation areas paving way for the creation of EChuya Forest Reserve, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mugahinga National park. This was the turning point for the Batwa for good or for worse depending on the side you are looking at. One aspect to note about gazettment of these areas is that the Batwa were never compensated contrary to the statutory provisions on land acquisition by government.

The 2012 National housing and population census indicated that Uganda had 6,700 Batwa. The 2007 survey by the Organization for Batwa development in Uganda (OBDU) reveals that there are 3135 Batwa in South western Uganda with Kisoro district home to 1937 of them.

Today, that Batwa are mainly living in the districts of Kisoro, Kabale, Kanungu, Bundibigyo, Mbarara, Ntungamo, some in Lwengo and Mubende- in other words; they are scattered.

In all these areas, they are landless and this has negatively impacted on their political, social and economic aspects of life.

A family of five people live in this house. It is temporary and the roof leaks when it rains.
The Batwa live in poor houses like these ones in most areas. In the photo is a home of a Mutwa family in Ruceri Village- Kisoro district. In the back ground, is the Ruceri village chairman’s house – one of the few iron roofed houses in the area .

WAY OF LIFE

Majority of the Batwa are living as squatters. Their relationship with the land owners (the non Batwa) is that the Batwa stay on the land (where they build a small semi-permanent house and do some small scale subsistence farming) in exchange of cheap labor. This symbiotic looking but parasitic relationship has left the Batwa vulnerable, unsettled and poor.

During my visit to Batwa communities in Kanungu, Kisoro and Kabale districts, I found out that the moment the land lord is not satisfied with the output of the squatter, the relationship is terminated at will and the Mutwa’s family has to look for somewhere else to live. “I cannot for example grow long term crops like coffee or a banana plantation on the land that is not mine. The owner will not allow me or I might be chased before I enjoy the benefits of my sweat. Any time, you can be chased away. We cannot be sure of tomorrow”, a visibly worried Gad Bagaraya, a 32 year old father of six living in Ruceri village in Kisoro district told me. We just live today and when the land lord decides to terminate the relationship, you move to another area for another good Samaritan who will allow you to stay on his land, he elaborated adding that “ we are loved because of our energy and hard work character”.

Except the lucky few who have been resettled by some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that bought land for them, many others live like this but they hope for a brighter settled future.

This is another house for another family. Take a close look at the nature of the sorrounding soil. It is too rocky to support crop growth.
The Batwa who have not been resettled (the majority) live in poor houses like this. This is a family home in Ruceri village on the slopes of Mount Muhabura in Kisoro district.

Health Status of the Batwa

Health is an important aspect of every community. I took a keen interest in the health status of the Batwa Community in Kisoro district which has the biggest number of this unique group of people. Ruceri village in Nyarusinza Sub County is home to over 20 Batwa families each with an average of 5 members. It is about 25 kilometres away from Kisoro Town but because of the poor road (which stops somewhere before the village) and the distance you must walk up the mountain to the village, its takes over one hour to reach.

Residents here somehow managed to put up where they call home on what they say is government land. Some in this village built of land belonging to the non- Batwa residents. Being a mountain, it’s too rocky and cultivation is impossible. They work for the non-Batwa in the villages near-by to get food or small pieces of land to cultivate. As a result, their nutrition leaves a lot to be desired. “We eat once a day and our children have little to feed on”, Nyirandufiye Celina, a 38 year old mother of six told me during my visit to the area on a relatively warm Sunday morning.

According to health experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), breast feeding mothers ought to feed well to perform this task well. Just imagine what a baby would get from a mother who spends hours working but gets one insufficient meal a day!

In a community like this, housing will always be a challenge. Whereas a few through hard work and much austerity measures have managed to construct iron roofed houses, many stay in grass thatched or old tuplin thatched houses that leak when it rains. The temporary houses are small but a family will somehow find away to stay in. “I have worked and saved for years to get money to buy iron sheets for my house. It’s not easy. That is the reason why many people in our community stay in temporary shelter. They are also difficult to put up because grass and banana fibres for roofing are hard to get these days. They use the little they get and the houses leak when it rains”, Sserutokye Stephen,

Mr. Serutokye Stephen- the Vice chairman Ruceri village in Nyarusinza Sub County
Mr. Sserutokye Stephen- the Vice chairman Ruceri village in Nyarusinza Sub County

the Ruceri village vice chairperson explained.

A family of five lives in this house. It is temporary and the roof leaks when it rains.

During the visit, I entered 7 houses (both the iron roofed and the temporary roofed) and I noticed that clothing is inadequate and so are beddings while ownership and use of mosquito nets is a distant dream for all.

Latrine Coverage

The national latrine coverage stands at an average of about 77 percent. This is not a good figure but there are many areas doing badly in latrine coverage including Kisoro district. The Kisoro district Chairperson Ben Mutabazi puts the latrine coverage at about 55 percent- way below the wanting national average. The latrine coverage among the Batwa is however worse. It is less than 30 percent in Ruceri village in Kisoro district and in other Batwa communities I visited in Kisoro, Kabale and Kanungu districts.

In the Ruceri Village (Batwa community), only three households have pit latrines. The chairman, the vice chairman and one resident are the only ones with pit latrines. However, they are shallow and temporarily built with no roof. Their quality notwithstanding, these homes are better than the rest where members defecate in bushes.

This is a great health risk to the people of this area. Records at Mutorere Hospital in Kisoro District reveal that diarrhea cases account for the highest number of disease cases among children.

The world health body denotes that many diseases are associated with poor sanitation.

“Inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 280 000 diarrhea deaths annually and is a major factor in several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma. Poor sanitation also contributes to malnutrition”, WHO elaborates.

It’s inexcusable for a family and a community to be without a latrine in the modern day age but the reasons advanced by this community deserve a hearing. According to Ruceri village Chairman John Haguma-Imana, land is the greatest problem. “The owner of the land gives you a little portion of land to build your home and establish a small garden- so you find yourself with no land for a latrine.

During my interview with Mr. the chairman of the Batwa of Ruceri Village. His house is one of the few iron roofed houses.
During my interview with Mr. Haguma-Imana John , the chairman of Ruceri Village. His house is one of the few iron roofed houses.

Besides, these people are temporary here. Am not trying to justify our problem but the people here are facing a number of challenges”, Haguma-imana explained.

An old adage goes – Health is made at home and repaired at a health facility. From the above experience, a Mutwa in Kisoro has the health facility to rely on for his well being. I took some time to look at the health services available and accessible to these people.

Nyarusinza health centre Three is the closest health facility – about 7 kilometers from Ruceri village. It’s a government health facility but just like many other public health centres, it has several challenges that negatively impact on its capacity to deliver and consequently it has failed to attract the confidence of the community including the Batwa.

Perhaps the biggest gift to the Batwa came in form of the Combating Child Mortality Among Batwa in Kisoro district (CCMB) program- an initiative of St. Francis Hospital popularly known as Mutorere hospital and its partners.

The front view of St. Francis Hospital Mutorere. It is among the best, clean and organized health facilities i have visited in Uganda
The front view of St. Francis Hospital Mutorere. It is among the best, clean and organized health facilities i have visited in Uganda

The arrangement under this program is that when a Mutwa falls sick or wants to access any health service including but not limited to testing, screening and child delivery, he or she simply walks to Mutorere hospital, is served for as long as it takes and the bill is footed by the hospital and its partners in this program.

For the pregnant mothers who definitely have to spend a couple of days as well as those who are admitted, the project takes care of their feeding as well as the feeding on the attendants for the longevity of one’s stay at the facility. It’s this treatment that makes the Batwa feel free, access quality medical care, stay healthy and hope for the best. “The services at Mutorere are excellent, a reason why we are healthy and few mothers and children die during and after delivery”, Nyiraneza Mereth, a resident of Rubuguri in Kisoro district who I found at the hospital attending to her pregnant aunt told me.

This facility is about 5 kilometres away from Kisoro town. Depending on the Batwa community you are from, people trek a good distance to come here. Ruceri village is about 30 kilometres away and many people from this village also walk to get service at Mutorere while a few afford parting with over 6000 shillings hiring a motor cycle for a single route journey for one person.

Ssendegeya Emmanuel aged 29 years comes from Birara Batwa Community which is about 27 kilometrers from this hospital. He is a carpenter but I found him at the hospital because he is on TB treatment.

Nurse Katto Justine, the CCMB Cordinator at St. Francis Hospital Mutorere interating with one of the patients Ssendegeya Emmanuel at his hospital bed. When i visited the hospital, Ssendegeya had spent 6 days in the isolation unit
Nurse Katto Justine, the CCMB Cordinator at St. Francis Hospital Mutorere interating with one of the patients Ssendegeya Emmanuel at his hospital bed. When i visited the hospital, Ssendegeya had spent 6 days in the isolation unit

The day in found him at this health facility (10th December, 2015), he had been there for six days with his wife attending to him. “I have been here with my wife for close to a week now. All is well. I get medicine and am regularly checked on by the professionals. My wife and I get food from these people (the hospital management). I hope for a quick recovery and hope to be discharged soon”, a weak toned Ssendegeya told me from his hospital bed in the isolation wing.

 

CCMB Project at a Glance

Credited for changing the lives of the Batwa, this project started in 2009.

According to Katto Justine- registered nurse and midwife who is the project coordinator the need for this initiative emanated from their observations and findings during the numerous community outreach projects they used to carry out as a hospital. “We found out that the Batwa are poor and they had difficulties accessing health services. Mortality was high in the Batwa communities especially among women and children. It is this that made us think of ways to help these people” she narrated.

In 2009, the hospital patterned with CARE- an international NGO to scale up community health out reaches in the Batwa communities. “We started with 12 community outreach centres. During these outings, we emphasized the need to visit hospitals, did a number of tests, treated diseases and also carried out monitoring of pregnant women”, She explained adding that the drive saw a surge in the number of Batwa visiting health facilities after some time. With sensitization, Katto elaborates, the Batwa have improved on sanitation and personal hygiene though there is much to improve on.

In 2011, the CARE partnership came to an end and Sustain for Life- another NGO came on board. This organization foots the hospital bills and also pays for the food rations given to the patients and their care takers.

The hospital now receives about four Batwa pregnant women per month seeking antenatal services. As of today, 20 Batwa women are taking family planning services from St. Francis hospital. “Though the numbers are low, it’s a big step and an achievement- considering that we started from zero”, an enthusiastic Katto- an enrolled nurse by profession noted.

 

Outstanding Health Challenges Among the Batwa

As already highlighted, sanitation is still a huge health challenge among the Batwa. With poor sanitation, this community is not at all safe from diseases.

Due to the Batwa’s Landless nature, food is still a huge mountain to climb. Consequently, malnutrition cases among the Batwa children are high. The most affected are children. “Due to poor shelter and clothing, we get many cases of pneumonia among the Batwa children”, Katto elaborated but added that under the CCMB project, they are now giving mothers free baby clothing kits.

According to Katto, another huge health challenge is HIV and Positive living among the Batwa. Like any other community in Uganda, the Batwa are also affected by HIV/AIDS.

Some people are positive but very few know their HIV status. According Katto, the CCMB project encourages HIV testing during the community outreaches but very few test to know their status. Those who test positive, she adds are enrolled on treatment and closely monitored. However, she notes that positive living is a big challenge. “Adherence to treatment is a huge challenge because the Batwa are always on the move. Because of little food, taking medicine is difficult and positive living in now a huge challenge.

Traditions like sharing of women have increased the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases”, Katto further narrated to me during our detailed discussion in her office at St. Francis hospital- Mutorere.

Birth rate among the Batwa is high and uptake of family planning services is still very poor. According to Katto, after years of sensitization, they have registered 20 Batwa women who are using family planning. “This is a small number but a positive step”, she observes.

Despite all this, the Batwa are moving forward and the future looks brighter. Peninah Zaninka- the head of the Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda (OBDU) observes that the Batwa have come from far and despite the challenges, they hope for a better tomorrow. According to Zaninka, the key to making the lives of the Batwa better is solving the land question- in other words; getting the Batwa Land to stay on and do developmental projects.

 

Batwa Resettlement Efforts

For over the years, non- governmental organizations have tried to resettle the Batwa. Organizations like the Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda (OBDU), ADRA Uganda, CARE International, Bwindi Mugahinga Trust, the Adventist church and may others have bought land in several areas of Kisoro, Kanungu and Kabale districts where they have resettled some Batwa.

The Batwa in these areas are living in decent houses and have land for cultivation. As of December 2015, the Batwa had been resettled in Kabahenda, Butoobo, Kamugyemani all in Busanza Sub County- Kisoro district, Rubuguri, Nteko, and Nyakabande in Kisoro district.

In Kabale district, the Batwa have been resettled in Karengyere in Muko, Murambo, Ekinyarushengye and in Rubindi. In Kanungu, the Batwa have been resettled in Buhuma where they live today.

When I visited Kabahenda, Rubuguri, Nteko, Murambo, Karengyere and Buhuma communities where the Batwa have been resettled, I observed that the people here are living a more organized life, fully integrated into the community, sanitation levels are better, they are engaged in cultivation and they are more positive about life compared to those in communities like Kisoro Town, Ruceri village and other areas where the Batwa are living as squatters.

Voices of the People

Winnie Mukandinda- Land rights Officer at OBDU:

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Winnie Mukandinda- Land rights Officer at OBDU

 

The Batwa are such an interesting group of people with potential to do a lot. They have come from far and the future looks bright for them. Government of Uganda ought to come out now and work with the non- governmental organizations to address challenges of the Batwa especially Land. They were evicted from the forests without compensation and this injustice ought to be corrected.

Milton Mutabazi Bazanye, Chairman Kisoro District (2011-2015); As a leader I wish to see all the Batwa settled. As a district we have plans to resettle them but this is a long term project. We salute organizations that have really helped to resettle the Batwa much as more are still squatting. If the Batwa get land like those who have been resettled, we will be able to see their productivity and poverty among them will be history.

 

Sam Byibesho- the Kisoro Municipality Mayor (2011-16); When you compare the Batwa living in Kisoro town with those living in rural areas especially those who have been resettled, you realize that we need to get these people where they can call home.

Sam Byibesho Mayor Kisoro Town (2011-2016)
Sam Byibesho- the Kisoro Municipality Mayor (2011-16)

Addressing the Batwa land question is key but this needs all the stake holders to come on board. “ I propose that to get the Batwa on the same footing with the rest in development, after handling their land needs, we should come up with an affirmative action to economically empower them”, he notes.

 

Nyamihanda Alice- an Educated Mutwa: The Batwa have been marginalized for long.

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Nyamihanda Alice- an Educated Mutwa, currently working with OBDU

“We deserve better than this”. Am glad many Batwa children are now accessing education, many people are now engaged in income generating projects, the Batwa now access quality health care and of course the support from the NGOs is good.

However, one worrying aspect is the sustainability for some of these projects like the Health project at Mutorere hospital. “As a Mutwa, I believe we need a representative in Parliament who can be our voice and articulate our issues”, the 27 year old who dreams of representing her area in Parliament notes.

 

Ronah Ritah Ninsiima- The Kabale District Woman Member of Parliament (2011-2016): As leaders we must consider the plight of the Batwa people and see how to help them settle in the community.

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Hon. Ninsiima Ronah Ritah wants to see the Batwa benefit more from government programs and initiatives

They must also benefit from government programs like Operation Wealth creation, NAADS, Youth Livelihood fund but if they are still landless, they might not and they will unfortunately stay poor.

 

Tibamanya William Kisoso- The Mbarara district speaker (2011-2015);

Tibamanya William Kisoso- Speaker Mbarara district (2011-2016)
Tibamanya William Kisoso- The Mbarara district speaker (2011-2015)

I have visited families of the Batwa living in Mbarara district (Nyakayojo Sub County). The truth is, these people need to be loved, treated well, welcomed and they must enjoy every public good like all other Ugandans. Because of the historical injustice they faced, an affirmative action is needed to improve the situation they are in today.

 

John Justice Tibesigwa- Senior Warden Bwindi Impenetrable National Park; John Justice Tibesigwa- Warden Bwindi Impenetrable National ParkToday, we enjoy a good relationship with the Batwa. Many of them operate as tour guides in the national park where they get income, the areas neighboring the park where some Batwa stay benefit from the revenue sharing program. We are working with the Batwa leader and the district leadership to identify their former worshipping and ancestral places so that we preserve these places and also allow Batwa access to these important places.

 

 

Uganda Urged to tighten laws on Tobacco consumption

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Uganda Urged to tighten laws on Tobacco consumption

Cliff Abenaitwe

A couple of years ago, Uganda’s Parliament enacted the anti-tobacco consumption legislation. This law bares public smoking and tobacco advertising and puts in place fines for offenders.

At the time of its enactment, this was seen as a step forward towards reducing deaths as a result of tobacco consumption.

However, since then nothing has much changed and health activists are up again demanding for tough measures against tobacco use and production.

Baguma Richard Tinkasimire, the programs coordinator at the Uganda health communication alliance says that this legislation puts light punishments and fines on perpetrators and its implementation is poor. According to Baguma, tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship has persisted and this is dangerous.

Tobacco advertising has persisted not only in Uganda but world over and this must stop according to health activists.
Tobacco advertising has persisted not only in Uganda but world over and this must stop according to health activists.

“Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship encourage people especially the youth to use tobacco, encourage tobacco users to use more, decrease user’s motivation to quit and quitters to relapse,” he sadly adds

Loopholes in the law

Baguma explains that the current law has many loopholes. “Under the current law, every public place must have a no smoking sign but many of our hotels, bars, offices and night spots do not have them.

Such no smoking signs have been ignored by not only the owners of public places but by the public it self.
Such no smoking signs have been ignored by not only the owners of public places but by the public it self.

What is more baffling is that you find ‘smoking zones’ and ash trays in these places and this is unlawful,” Baguma notes. He further reveals that as a result of these loop holes in the current law, public smoking and public tobacco consumption has persisted and this is a great health risk to both the consumer and the people around.

As a result of this trend, health activists have now drafted a private members bill that is before the floor of parliament. Baguma told this mouth piece that this bill (Tobacco control bill 2012) seeks to tighten the grip on tobacco production, advertising and consumption.

The bill at a glance

According to Doctor Hafsa Lukwata, a mental health specialist and one of the brains behind this law in the offing, the act seeks to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

According to the world health organization (WHO), tobacco is the single greatest preventable cause of death in the world today, killing up to a half of the people who use it.

Some of the effects of smoking
Some of the effects of smoking

The world health body estimates that tobacco use causes nearly 6 million preventable deaths each year of which 10 percent are due to exposure to second hand tobacco smoke. “If current trends continue, the number of annual tobacco-related deaths is predicted to increase to 10 million by the year 2020 with 70 percent of those deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries”, the WHO 2011 report warns.

This bill seeks to promote a smoke free environment, place a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, restrict the sale, supply and use of tobacco products and to place tough fines and punishment on perpetrators.

Part IV of this bill advocates for an increment in taxes on tobacco products in an effort to control their trade. “The object of this part is to provide for price increase through taxation on tobacco products as an effective intervention in reducing demand for tobacco”, clause IV of the bill reads in part.

According to Baguma, there is a strong need to protect the vulnerable people who consume second hand smoke from cigarettes and tobacco. “We must put strong laws in place and implement them because health related problems related to tobacco use when they come, they are irreversible,” he added.

Shocking but true, Baguma does not buy the idea of designating smoking zones in public places like bars and clubs. “Designating smoking zones in public places is hopeless. Smoke from that area will eventually come to the non-smoking areas and affect others. Instead if one wants to smoke, let them go out of the public place and smoke from there.

In Uganda, tobacco growing has for generations been the main source of income for thousands in west Nile region and other areas like Kanungu. However Baguma observes that people in these areas can be helped to get an alternative crop to grow and earn big. He cites Bwambala Sub County in Rukungiri district western Uganda which used to be a tobacco production hub but people have now abandoned the crop in favor of upland rice.

Tobacco growing has been a source of income to thousands in Uganda but activists say that people can grow alternative crops rather than Tobacco.
Tobacco growing has been a source of income to thousands in Uganda but activists say that people can grow alternative crops rather than Tobacco.

Baguma notes that if people in Tobacco growing areas are well sensitized and given alternative crops to grow, they will definitely abandon tobacco growing.

The choice is yours to quit smoking or face the dire effects. It begins now.
The choice is yours to quit smoking or face the dire effects. It begins now.

Culturists Kill Police Officers In Kasese

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Culturists Kill Police Officers In Kasese

Cliff Abenaitwe

July 28, 2012

Two police officers attached to Mukokya police post in Kasese District, Western Uganda were Friday killed by suspected Rwenzururu tribal agitators.

The fateful incident happened at approximately 6am when a group of about 15 residents attacked the post with one automatic rifle and an assortment of spears, machetes, knives and shields.

In what appears to be a puzzling incident up to now, a police constable Ssemakula Mugabi was stubbed in the neck and he died on spot while the post commander Corporal Sunday Levi died later as he was being taken to Kirembe hospital.

The Western Regional Police Commander Wilson Kwanya confirms the incident which also left another police Constable Mandule Wilson badly injured.

Kwanywa told this site that three errant attackers were killed by police, two police rifles were as well taken by the foes as they retreated while some people have been arrested to help police in the investigations.

Police has heightened operations in the area to arrest the attack perpetrators

Police sources have identified the killed assailants as Alamazan Baluku, Zakayo and Daniel all residents of Kasese district.

Kyanywa says the intentions of the attackers are not yet clear but rules out any link to Uganda Congo cross border conflict. “The reason for the attack is not known at this point, but thought to be connected to local inter-tribal conflict and is not connected to the recent activities across the border in the Congo”,  he explains.

This is the first attack on a security establishment in this area where people are sharply divided along tribal lines.

Residents Cry Foul Over Hospital Staffing

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 Residents Cry Foul Over Hospital Staffing

Cliff Abenaitwe

June 24, 2012

Health service delivery in Bugamba Sub County in Mbarara district will deteriorate if the issue of understaffing at Bugamba health centre IV is not urgently addressed.

The health facility which serves over 3000 people has only 8 health workers out of a total of 49 workers who are supposed to be there. Area residents now say the limited number of health workers is affecting service delivery at this multi-million shillings Centre.  “The health centre opens late and due to the big patients to doctors ratio, some patients go back home without getting treatment” sadly noted Kizza Denis a resident of Byanamira cell in Bugamba adding that this issue has not got adequate attention from the leaders.

This facility has recently acquired a fully furnished operation theatre which now faces a prospect of lying idle for some time as long as the issue of few workers is not solved.

With the rugged terrain of the area which complicates access to the health centre, inadequate staffing is an aggravation of the health complications in the area. “There is nothing that hurts as reaching the hospital after such a long journey only to be told that you cannot be worked on since the workers are tired because they have been working on many patients” Benon Zebikire a resident of kitojjo cell which is about 10 kilometers from hospital said.

People living in such mountains in Bugamba find it hard accessing the health facility

The Public Outcry

With this state of affairs, residents have more often voiced their concerns over this issue but all in vain.

The sub county chairperson Grace Bwire acknowledges the problem. “My office is aware of this problem and we have received many complaints from our people as well. We have forwarded our grievances to the top authorities for redress” he explained adding that they have even notified the area member of parliament Vicent Mujuni Kyamadidi who comes from the nearby village about the issue.

Stake Holders Intervention

In march this year, the coalition for health promotion and social development Uganda (HEPS), a non-governmental organization that seeks to promote health rights and responsibilities launched the HEAR project which is currently under implementation in many sub counties of Mbarara district including Bugamba.

Under this project, people are empowered to know their health rights and responsibilities. “Once people know their health rights, they will take them up or demand for explanations and actions from the people concerned” noted Pilagia Tusiime the project coordinator. “When people speak out with one voice, they are easily heard than we in the NGOs because sometimes we are misunderstood” Rosette Mutambi, the HEPS executive director elaborated during a 2 days community leaders training about health rights and responsibilities held at Bugamba community hall that ended on June 21.

Health Rights for all:Rosette Mutambi (L) and Pelagia Tusiime from HEPS Uganda at the launch of the HEAR project early this year.

Heps on Health Challenges   

The case of Bugamba health centre IV is a small drop in the ocean. All health centres and hospitals in the country are faced with the same problems of under staffing, inadequate medicines and equipment, water and power shortages among others.

However Mutambi attributes all this to poor funding of the health sector. “Our national budget for health is so small. In the past years, the country’s health budget has been around 13 percent of the national budget but it might reduce for this financial year (2012/13) which is unfortunate” Rosette Mutambi sadly noted adding that with such a small budget, health issues like under staffing will persist.

Her voice is an addition to other calls by different stake holders advocating for more funding to the sector for a healthy population as an old adage goes “A healthy nation is a wealthy one”.