Some years ago, Pader district in northern Uganda had a widespread alcohol abuse. It resulted in much domestic violence and many children dropped out of school. Abel Murungu is Community Development Officer at IAS and is one of those who worked hard to break the negative trend that´s been holding Pader in captive for so long.
-To start up a work in a society where alcohol was equivalent with food was tough. It was understandable that many saw this project as a mission impossible, says Abel.
Abel shows around in the village Puranga, outside the city of Pader, one of the areas that is severly affected by alcohol abuse. Much of the alcohol produced here is consumed in the districts of Pader and Agago, some of the places where IAS has worked with sustainable rural projects for several years. A quality survey showed that the effect of these projects was hampered because of alcoholism. Due to this need Action Against Alcohol (AAA) was started.
Abel points to a couple of bowls with molasses, sorghum, maize, and cassava, some of the most common products used for brewing alcohol.
-Much of the alcohol is brewed locally and sold on the local market. It is not uncommon that people start to consume alcohol as early as 07 am, says Abel.
Because it is mostly men who spend their days drinking, the heavy agricultural work falls upon women and children. Even the elderly are affected since they have to take responsibility for children who have been abandoned by their parents.
IAS organize campaigns to increase awareness
Through the AAA project, IAS has carried out several campaigns to highlight the bad consequences of alcohol.
-One alcohol-related problem here is children dropping out of school. When the parents consume alcohol, they don´t engage in their children’s education which results in children staying at home, says Abel.
Alcohol also has a direct link to the spread of HIV / AIDS, says Juliet Namukasa, Country Director IAS Uganda.
– Alcohol is associated with an increased number of sexual contacts, and a greater risk-taking. This contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies, especially among the youth, says Juliet.
Alcohol also increases the risk of domestic violence. Juliet refers to a study (note)showing that alcohol is behind as much as 40% of all violence that takes place at home.
– Alcoholism leads to both physical and psychological violence. Children who grow up in homes where there is alcoholism have lower grades, higher risk of developing depression and carries a constant feeling of being socially isolated, says Juliet.
Has helped over 20 000 people
The AAA project started in 2012 and has been conducted in the districts of Pader, Abim and Agago. From the beginning the number of targeted households were 450 but today as AAA has been integrated in other IAS projects, the number of people that´s been helped has increased significantly.
– All in all, we are talking about 20 000 people, says Juliet.
In addition to awareness campaigns, IAS has also engaged local politicians to raise the discussion about alcohol and how they can influence their village to help people stop drinking.
-We collaborate with both local politicians and the police. By talking about the negative effects of alcohol and at the same time highlight stories from people who have been helped, progress is being made, slowly but surely. There is a lot of work, but when I see all the families that have been rescued and see how individuals have been helped, I am so happy and I think it is worth everything. I am convinced that when we change the attitudes towards alcohol, tomorrow’s generation will also be rescued from alcohol abuse, says Abel.
(Note: The social effects of alcoholism (March 2012) –Promises Treatment Center)
Film & Photo: Håkan Björk
Text: Rebecka Woods
Read more in The Journey (PDF-2.6MB) produced by IAS Uganda