Government is in high gears of implementing the 2019 National Alcohol Policy (NAP), Dr. Hafsah Lukwata, the acting Commissioner in Charge of mental health and substance abuse at the Ministry of Health has revealed.
According to Dr. Lukwata, the policy seeks to address five major issues; intoxication, public safety, health impacts, availability of alcohol and research into the use and abuse of alcohol.
The policy was discussed and approved by the cabinet in 2019 but faced hurdles of implementation due to the abrupt outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Dr. Lukwata.
“Many of you have been hearing that Alcohol is not for sale to persons under 18, now we have increased that to 21 years so that we protect even our children who are in Universities and other higher institutions of learning,” she said.
“We shall not stop at 18, because our research indicates that if someone does not consume intoxicants at 18 years, his or her chances of using them is too low, because he or she gets more responsibilities which bar them from drinking,” she noted.
Dr. Lukwata made these remarks while addressing journalists shortly after the 2020 National Learning Event on Child Wellbeing which was held in Kampala under the theme: Child Wellbeing during and Post-COVID-19 Context in Uganda.
“We also revised the time at which this alcohol shall be sold to the public and agreed that it should be reduced and now waiting for the new parliament to come and discuss more,” she noted.
On the issue of the amount of alcohol being consumed, Dr. Lukwata said that the government will ban all bottles which accommodate the 200ml since they are easy to be pocketed anywhere and in plenty by one consumer.
“We want the manufactures to increase the quantity to 500ml sizes so that if someone wants to consume, they don’t have to just put in the pockets, at least one to be enough, unlike now when one can even pocket more than five small bottles at a go,” the doctor stated.
The policy, according to Dr. Lukwata, also seeks to review the prices of different alcoholic drinks in light of inflation to ensure that liquor is not a cheap commodity.
During the virtual 2020 National Learning Event, different Child Specialists expressed worry on the unregulated increased usage of the internet by minors, which they said had exposes school going children to a number of abuses.
Stella Ayo-Odongo, the Coordinator of the African Partnership to End Violence against Children said that the introduction of e-learning has increased the risks of exposure to cyber bullying, risk online behaviors and sex exploitation to vulnerable children.
Odongo noted that some children have instead been excluded because of lack of access to internet services or poor schools which were not able to facilitate the online learning.
“The online presence that is now becoming the new norm is putting everyone at risk but especially the vulnerable who do not have control over what comes and will just move on with it,” she said.