33 percent of deaths in Uganda are due to NCDs, says WHO

FORT PORTAL, June 11, 2024 – According World Health Organisation [WHO], a total of 33 percent of annual deaths in Uganda today are due to non-communicable diseases [ NCDs ], and for every Ugandan, the probability of dying prematurely from one of the four main NCDs is 22 percent.

According to official records, the number of Ugandans living with NCDs has been increasing dramatically, making NCDs a major public health threat. For instance, 74,354 new cases of diabetes were seen at health facilities in Uganda in 2009-2010 compared to 58,523 five years earlier showing an increase of 27 percent, according to Health Management Information System [HMIS] data collected from 2009/2010.

In 2013, the Uganda diabetes association revealed that over 200,000 children had diabetes and expressed fears the number could be higher because many of the children do not report to hospital for diagnosis

The NCDs were estimated to account for 27 percent of the 353,000 total deaths and the probability of one dying between ages 30 and 70 years from the 4 main NCDs is 21 percent, according to WHO NCD Country Profiles, 2014.

NCDs such as heart diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes are the leading cause of death worldwide and represent an emerging global health threat.

Bernard Bwambale, a Public Health Nutritionist and the Programmes Manager CONSENT Uganda, a non-governmental organisation, said most NCDs are caused by unhealthy lifestyles.

Bwambale argues that in the past NCDs were not common because people used to eat traditional foods unlike today when everything has changed.

He said NCDs take long to manifest and by the time someone feels ill, the disease is already in the second stage. He said NCDs can be prevented by eating safe and balanced foods.

“When we were still young, we used to see our grandmothers prepare food and include some greens and would just boil them but now days many people prefer eating snacks and these snacks are fried with cooking oil which is not good for our health,” Bwambale noted.

He added that contaminated food increases the risk of getting non communicable diseases which is very dangerous to the society and affects the country’s productivity.

“Food safety is everyone’s business and if it’s not safe, it’s not food. We need to ensure that we mind what we eat and its safety. As we celebrate World food safety day, lets reflect on how food was prepared during the old days and how it is being prepared currently,” he said.

Every year, on June 7, Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate World Food Safety Day. This year, it was commemorated under the theme: “Food safety: prepare for the unexpected”.

According to Bwambale, World Food Safety Day serves as a reminder for governments, food producers, processors, marketers and consumers to prioritise and collaborate on maintaining food safety.

“This Day also aims to draw attention and inspire action to prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks, contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development,” he noted.

World Food Safety Day highlights the importance of food safety at every stage of food flow right from production to consumption.

By promoting food safety practices world food safety day seeks to reduce incidences of food borne illness, protect and build confidence of consumers, guarantee food and nutrition security and ensure the safety of global food supply.

According to Bwambale, CONSENT Uganda is committed to partnering with all stakeholders to develop effective food safety standards, conduct risk research, support certification for food sources, handle consumer complaints, address food safety violations and organise trainings and awareness programs for food handlers.

Meanwhile, Brian Kisembo, Chairperson Nutrition Coordination Committee Kabarole district said as a district they will continue sensitising the masses on food safety until people change their health lifestyles that causes NCDs.

Brian Kisembo, the Kabarole Nutrition Committee Chairperson sensitising Christians on food safety at Town Church in Fort Portal City (Photo by Scovia Atuhaire).

Kisembo said with support from different organisations, they have been able to sensitise farmers, political leaders, food handlers and also managed to hold community engagements on food safety.

Kisembo said this was part of the activities to commemorate World Food Safety Day and they used the same chance to create awareness on the burden of stunting in Tooro Sub-region which he said is alarming despite the region being one of the country’s food baskets.

Officials say stunting rate in Tooro Sub-region is at 38.7 percent according to Uganda Demographic Health Survey 2022, making it the third after Kigezi which is at 41.5 percent and the leading being Karamoja which is at 43.9 percent.

According to WHO, more than 200 diseases are associated with consumption of contaminated food that leave more than 600 million people ill and 420,000 individuals dead each year.

In Uganda, the aflatoxin related illnesses are estimated to cost government an annual additional US$ 910,000 on health services resulting from increased demand for medical supplies and technical expertise at the government health facilities thus posing a financial impact.

NCDs can impoverish countries and families, leading to serious socio-economic problems. For instance, annually, one cancer patient requires Shs 6 million for drugs alone to complete the recommended six cycles of treatment, according to  Uganda Cancer Institute [UCI].

In 2012/13 alone, Shs 2.5 billion was spent on open surgery and cardiac catheterisation of only 2 percent of the 12,184 heart patients that enrolled at the Uganda Heart Institute [UHI]

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