Uganda Commemorated World Health day at Agago district headquarters under the theme ‘Food safety for good health’. The overarching message to all Ugandans was to always ensure safety of food from the farm to the plate.
Hon Sarah Opendi, the Minister of State for Health (Primary Health Care) who represented the Prime Minister urged Ugandans to always ensure safety of the food they grow, process and eventually eat.
While noting that there are over 200 foodborne related diseases affecting people, Hon Opendi pointed to the urgent action needed to ensure food safety.
She gave the example of Agago district which has low malnutrition rates but with a high burden of diarrheal diseases; a clear indication of food contamination.
This, she said is attributable to the low latrine coverage rate which stands at only 34%. She implored leaders to ensure every household has a latrine to prevent contamination of food especially during the rainy season
Emphasizing the day’s theme, Hon Opendi said that Cholera outbreaks that often affect various parts of the country and the typhoid outbreak currently raving Kampala City are consequences of poor food handling.
In addition, the increasing burden of Non Communicable Diseases may be closely associated with contaminated or substandard food consumed in Uganda.
Dr. Solomon Woldetsadik represented the World Health Organization at the function. He highlighted the changing dynamics in food safety brought about by the changes in production, processing and storage.
Overall Dr. Woldetsadik underlined the cross-cutting nature of food safety noting that other sectors such agriculture, trade, standards agency, law enforcement, and environment protection have a critical role to play. “Food safety offers a unique opportunity for government to foster multi-sectoral dialogue and coordination, especially between health, agriculture, trade, and environment sectors”, he said
He also noted Uganda’s ability to attract food processing industries which is attributed to its huge agricultural potential. He however said that attention should be given to setting standards and quality control to avoid production of substandard products.
Giving the technical dimension, the Director General of Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, reported that rural-urban migration, and the environment are as some of the factors responsible for poor food safety in Uganda.
Whereas Uganda has policies, regulations and standards as well as the Public Health Act, food safety remains a big challenge that required participation of all sectors in addition to technical and financial support from partner organizations.
The Member of Parliament for Agago Hon Jonathan Okot enumerated the various nutritious food produced in Agago district and requested the government to set up industries to safely process such food such as those in other parts of the country and outside. Poor handling and processing he noted, greatly contributes to many preventable diseases in the district in addition to loss of income.
The commemoration was preceded by a match past led by a brass band through Agago town in which health workers, students and several Community Based organizations and NGOs participated.
There was a colorful exhibition of safe and nutritious foods, health services and other and commercial products produced in Agago district. Free health services such as HIV testing and counseling, family planning, educational materials were also on offer.