Underage alcohol abuse in Uganda should be tackled head-on. A recent survey by Straight Talk Foundation indicates that nearly four of every 10 children in Adjumani, Nwoya, Kitgum, and Soroti districts drink the liquor in homes. This is very worrying, more so because the booze problem is not restricted to youngsters. It extends to adults in homes and teachers in classrooms. Another survey by US broadcaster Cable News Network (CNN) in 2013, ranked Ugandans among top consumers of alcohol in Africa and number eight globally.
This widespread alcohol abuse, especially among our youngsters, calls for stern measures. This is how to rid the practice among children. First, the report says children soak up the liquor only when available. This means the simple solution is to keep alcohol off limits to children. Second, the most significant source of money to finance this high-risk habit comes from parents through gifts of a few coins or notes. Of course, another source is from well-to-do peers, but this must be minimal. This means when grown-ups take responsibility to know what pocket change for the children is used for, they can also check the abuse.
Third, children imbibe the hard drink not so much for anything but idle pleasure. Fourth, the strong drink is low-priced, easy to access in sachets. This explains why the Kabale students easily drip the spirits into bread and smuggle it into classrooms. Indeed, as Principle Officer in Charge of Mental Health Dr Sheila Ndyanabangi says, these tot packs are fuelling alcoholism and destroying our youth. The double tragedy is having our teachers stagger into classrooms drunk and stammer over lessons. This is an unacceptable way to build for the future. Indeed, it should be now that this vice in minors is stopped.
But not many district authorities have banned this substance abuse. In October 2014, we called for a ban on sale of waragi in sachets. Then, the Kitgum District authorities had slammed a ban on sale of waragi in sachets, popularly called tot packs. But six months later, this abuse has not stopped, at least according to the survey by Straight Talk Foundation. Kitgum remains among districts where youngsters still enjoy the liquor in homes. Even then, the proactive move by Kitgum district authorities should be supported, adopted, and enforced by Adjumani, Nwoya, and Soroti local authorities, and other districts.
The district leaders, business owners, and security chiefs should all come together and discourage waragi, stop school dropouts, and promote health and life and a brighter future for young Ugandans.