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Uganda prepare to fight tobacco use as medical bills rise

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- As the world prepares to commemorate World No Tobacco Day on Thursday, Uganda is striving to fight against the use of the substance which is a source of income to some people and yet a drain to the economy in terms health care.

World Health Organization (WHO) in a statement issued on Wedneday said in Uganda the cost of tobacco use constitutes 0.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while expenditure on treating tobacco induced illness is 2 percent of the National Health Expenditure.

The statement noted that tobacco causes over 1 in 10 heart diseases, including stroke.

This year’s theme, ‘Tobacco and heart disease,’ focuses on tobacco use as a key risk factor for developing heart and related diseases, including stroke.

A study, “The Health Cost of Tobacco in Uganda,” released last year shows that the total cost of tobacco use including the direct cost of treatment and the indirect costs of loss of income and productivity from death and disability is 126.48 million U.S. dollars.

The study indicates that the total health cost outweighs the market value (81.22 million dollars) of tobacco products or the assumed benefits of tobacco use in the east African country.

Global annual costs from tobacco use, according to WHO, is 1.4 trillion dollars in health care expenditure and lost productivity from illness and premature death.

The health body says there is need to highlight the dangers associated with using tobacco, and to press for policies to reduce its use.

Uganda enacted a Tobacco Act about three years ago spelling out stringent measures to curb the produce, import, use and promote tobacco products.

The law banned advertising, promotion and sponsorship by tobacco manufacturers, distributors and sellers.

Government also banned importation, manufacture and sale of tobacco products which do not conform to standards. The country’s tax body, Uganda Revenue Authority, recently destroyed contraband cigarettes worth 410,000 dollars.

The law also made it illegal to smoke in public places.

Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary ministry of health recently told reporters that whereas the country has a good law, it needs to be implement to realize the desired results.

Atwine said government would embark on sensitizing young people on the dangers of smoking.

“The percentage of young people with mental illness is associated with drug abuse. Young people fancy smoking shisha—this is dangerous,” she said, noting that in their campaign against smoking, they will target university students.

She said the ministry would also destroy at 40-feet container full of shisha pots and related apparatus that were confiscated from bars and restaurants across the country.

Civil society organizations are also pushing companies to have in place regulations against the use of tobacco.

Primah Kwagala, an official of The Center for Health, Human Rights and Development, a civil society organization, told reporters recently that companies which fail to protect employees from smokers will face civil litigation.

Tobacco farmers, however, protest the increased pressure to stop tobacco use arguing that their household income is reducing.



Ugandan veterinary experts reject Cuban-made vaccine

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- A team of Ugandan veterinary doctors have asked the government to stop importing anti-tick vaccines from Cuba, claiming the medicine is less effective compared to the one that has been developed locally.

Fredrick Kabi, a leading researcher at the state run National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), said on Tuesday that the imported vaccines have met increased resistance from ticks and that they were a deterrent to the eco-system.

NARO is the country’s top body that guides and coordinates all agricultural research activities in Uganda.

Speaking during a technology dissemination workshop in Kampala, the expert said Uganda was losing about 9.8 million U.S. dollars annually in the importation of anti-tick vaccines and acaricides.

“The NARO tick vaccine is superior to the tick vaccine being imported from Cuba. The Cuban vaccine attacks only one tick and the NARO one attacks the 3 ticks affecting the Ugandan livestock,” Kabi said.

Kabi advised the government to expedite the process of allowing NARO to commercialize their vaccine.

Kabi was supported by the state minister for agriculture, Christopher Kibanzanga, who argued that failure to pass the National Biotechnology and Bio-safety Bill had greatly contributed to among other things, massive brain drain of scientists from Uganda. It had crippled research in agriculture.

“The government recognizes the increasing challenges associated with climate change. We are committed to empowering scientists to create a vibrant and responsive science and technology sector,” the minister said.

Joy Kabatsi, minister of state for animal industry, appealed to the scientists to allow the government to import the Cuban vaccines as an interim measure as the process of commercialization of the NARO vaccine is ongoing.


Uganda to install digital speed limiters in all commercial vehicles

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- The Ugandan government on Tuesday directed that digital speed limiters be installed in all commercial vehicles in a new move aimed at reducing road carnage in the east African country.

Frank Tumwebaze, minister for information said in a statement that drivers of commercial vehicles will also be required to undergo refresher courses.

He said the ministry of works and transport will sensitize the public about road safety.

The announcement comes after a fatal accident over the weekend that left 22 people dead and 19 others injured in the Midwestern part of the country.

Uganda registers at least 20,000 accidents with over 2,000 deaths each year, making it one of the countries with the highest road accident fatalities in the world, according to police figures.


Chinese community donates to disadvantaged babies in Uganda

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- The Chinese community in Uganda on Tuesday made donation to Sanyu Babies Home, a child care center where babies who have been abandoned by their parents are taken care of.

Chinese Ambassador to Uganda Zheng Zhuqiang, who attended the function held at the Home in the capital Kampala, said Chinese companies have a responsibility to give back to the communities in which they operate in.

He expressed hope that the donation of more than 3,000 U.S. dollars and other items would help improve the babies’ well-being.

“The relationship between China and Uganda has been there for many years and it will always be there and if we see a need to support children. Chinese will always give support because we also need these children to have better health and life,” said Zheng.

About 15 members from Uganda Zhejiang Chinese Association joined the ambassador to deliver their donations to the Home.

Nankya Mutagubya, the Director of Sanyu Babies Home, hailed the Chinese community for always visiting the babies and showing them care.

She urged the locals to also copy the good culture the Chinese have showed in helping to take care of disadvantaged babies.

Mutagubya said the home has about 49 babies and they will use the Chinese donation to look after babies by buying them food, milk and repairing one of their trucks which they use to take children to hospital in case of an emergency.



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