Jerrycans of impounded Waragi
By Timothy Eodu
The police in Moroto district have impounded yet again illicit waragi from Moroto district and cautioned traders who are still dealing in the business throughout the region to abandon it as soon as possible if they want to avoid the losses associated with it if caught.
This was after a marble truck, registration number UAN 228 P driven by a one Saidi Makati a resident of Mbale City was intercepted by the police while offloading fresh foods from the Moroto main market on Friday 12/Aug 2022 and Fuso truck registration number UAT 620 A loaded with 300 Jerrycans of illicit waragi on Saturday 13/Aug 2022.
Police removing Jerrycans of waragi from sacks of posho
According to police spokesperson Mt. Moroto region AIP Michael Longole, they impounded a total of 346 Jerrycans of illicit waragi worth over 80m shillings while concealed in sacks of posho and loaded together with fresh foods from Mbale in one of the marble trucks.
He says the driver of the truck is in police custody, the truck parked at the station and fresh foods abandoned by the owners in the truck while the Fuso has also been impounded. Longole said such kinds of losses would be avoided if traders followed the set by laws to safe guard lives being lost in the region over unregulated consumption of the waragi.
This is not the first time that police is impounding illicit waragi, statistics available indicate that over 2000 Jerrycans of this illicit waragi have so far been impounded all over the region but the flow continues.
With a 54.5% of alcohol consumers, the Sub-Region of Karamoja ranks gloomily no. 1 in the Country, where the national average is 14.6% (Uganda National Household Survey 2017). In Karamojong society, women and children carried all the burden of the family survival. Brewing is traditionally run by women, as a source of income for the family.
A crucial fact to be considered in order to understand the problem of alcoholism in Karamoja is that in the last ten years the type of alcohol consumed has changed from the local brew, called ‘kweete’ (produced through the fermentation of cereals and having a low alcoholic percentage in a range of about 4 to 6%), to the widespread consumption of distilled alcohol, called ‘waragi’, produced outside Karamoja and having a high alcoholic percentage of 40% and even more.
According to the ‘Justice and Peace Desk’ of Moroto Diocese, it is notorious that alcohol abuse has led to a dramatic increase of the cases of domestic and gender based violence in Karamoja. Alcoholism also leads to impoverishment and mismanagement of resources and livelihood in households and communities.
The Health Management Information System (HMIS), managed by of the Uganda Ministry of Health, records (monthly, quarterly and annually) in each Health Units patients accepted for alcohol related problems, and files them as ‘alcohol abuse’. According to HMIS data, the number of case of ‘alcohol abuse’ patients is soaring dramatically over the last four years.
The most recent data, as of July 2018, show a steadily and soaring increase: the number of cases recorded in the last fiscal year (2017/18) doubled those in the previous one (Fig. 2).
In particular, districts of Abim and Kaabong are experiencing the most dramatic increase in this phenomenon, recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) almost triple every year (Tab. 1).
It is well documented in medicine literature that alcoholism leads to various health problems but mainly to serious liver diseases. Yet, not surprisingly Matany Hospital, the biggest in that area, recorded in the last years a worrying increase of deaths due to liver diseases (excluding hepatitis and cancer of the liver). In fact, liver diseases were the 7th cause of death in FY 2012-13, and jumped to be the second cause of death in FY 2015/16 and the first cause of death in FY 2017/18 (Fig. 3).
Many other health related problems are driven by alcoholism. In the Psychiatric Ward of Moroto Regional Referral Hospital, the cases of patients treated because of mental illnesses related to alcohol show an impressive increase: 4, 9, 17, 14, and 35 in fiscal years from 2013/14 to 2017/18 respectively. Also cases of ‘gender based’ violence are recorded in the HMIS, and they show a dramatic increase (tab. 2).
In the HMIS there are also records of patients seen in the health units having alcohol as a ‘risk factor’. The cases are increasing rapidly over recent years, and data as of June 2018 show that the total number is 32.9% higher year over year with abnormal results in some districts – namely Abim and Amudat (Table 3).
All the above findings, based on primary data collected by HMIS, draw a dramatic and worsening scenario in people quality of life and human rights: a worrying increase of cases of alcohol abuse, liver diseases, fatalities, and ‘gender based violence’ caused by over consumption of alcohol. This scenario calls to action responsible people and institutions.