Gulu, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | Local Government leaders in the Acholi Sub-region are facing increasing scrutiny due to the declining productivity of both young and adult men, a situation attributed to the excessive consumption of potent alcohol.
At a gathering of community leaders, it was observed that the issue of alcoholism among men in the sub-region has reached an alarming level, posing significant threats to public health and hindering socio-economic development, thereby necessitating immediate attention.
This pressing concern came to the forefront during the Doro Paco Initiative Meeting in Gulu City, a gathering convened by Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and Former Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) Party President Olara Otunnu. The meeting brought together Local Government officials and youth leaders from across the Acholi sub-region to engage in a dialogue aimed at finding solutions to the region’s challenges.
Emmanuel Orach, the Chairperson of Nwoya District, noted that a substantial number of men, regardless of age, have increasingly turned to spending their valuable time in bars, indulging in alcohol consumption while neglecting their familial responsibilities. This behavior not only jeopardizes the health of those involved but also hampers the region’s development, as it leads to decreased productivity.
Nabinson Kidega Nok, the Resident District Commissioner of Agago, raised concerns about the deliberate sale of potent alcoholic beverages in the sub-region, which he believed was a strategy to hinder the productivity of diligent men. He pointed out that many men have developed health problems such as abnormal weight gain and swollen cheeks due to excessive consumption of illicit strong liquor.
Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo stressed the need for innovative solutions to address the challenges faced by the Acholi Sub-region. He remarked on the shift in social norms, highlighting that it was once uncommon to see women openly drinking and youth engaging in gambling activities during the crucial farming seasons.
Dr. Olara Otunnu emphasized the potential damage to the Acholi people’s reputation and integrity if these ongoing issues are not fully resolved.
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Deputy Mayor Christine Olok of Gulu City Council advocated for the implementation of a bylaw to regulate early morning drinking and the sale of alcohol to men, as a strategy to combat alcoholism.
During the same meeting, leaders also highlighted several other challenges the sub-region faces, including high poverty rates, rampant land sales, high rates of teenage pregnancy, poor academic performance, and the discouragingly high bride prices that deter many men from getting married.
In November 2016, the Gulu District Council enacted the Alcohol Drinks Ordinance, which aimed to regulate drinking hours, alcohol consumption, and, importantly, banned the sale of potent gin in plastic bottles smaller than 250 ml. This was a significant step in addressing the issue of alcoholism in the region.