It was reported in the press this week that some leaders in northern Uganda want the government to impose a ban on the production and sale of liquor packaged in sachets. Due to its widespread consumption, the leaders said, men in the region have abandoned all economic activity to women.
“The sachet alcohol is killing our people. Some men are now impotent and are no longer playing their marital roles,” said Arua LC-V chairman Sam Wadri Nyakua, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues during a northern Uganda development (PRDP) workshop in Kampala last week.
Similarly, during the international women’s day event in Arua in 2013, women leaders called for the regulation or ban of the said liquor, saying it was increasing poverty and hunger.
This outcry is not new. Although leaders in northern Uganda have been particularly vocal, it seems to be a national problem. Concerned about the same problem, local leaders in Rukungiri last November imposed a ban on the sale of alcohol before 2pm. In some parts of the country, men are known to start drinking as early as 9am.
Because it is handy, cheap and readily available, sachet liquor is very popular, especially among young people. Students have not been spared, and there are reports of sachets being hidden inside exercise books as classes go on.
There is urgent need for the government to listen to the local leaders who have consistently complained about this problem. If nothing is done in good time, the long term repercussions to our society could be dire.
So far, the relevant authorities appear to be sleeping. In 2009, after adulterated alcohol killed almost 20 people, Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) said it would prohibit packaging of alcohol in less than 100mls containers.
Their quality assurance official also spoke of phasing out plastic packaging material (PVC), which he actually said was already government policy. Nothing in that regard has happened, six years later.
Admittedly, sachet liquor is a multi-million industry and so, banning it is likely to cause uproar. However, it can be regulated to protect vulnerable people. Also, just as mainstream alcohol makers actively champion ‘Don’t drink and drive’ or ‘Stop under-age drinking’ campaigns, sachet liquor producers must take responsibility for the harm their products are doing to society and act in mitigation.