It was a joyous moment when the Rt. Honourable Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, Rebecca Kadaga launched the first ever Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa at Makerere University.
The Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa (CTCA), which was launched on Tuesday, 1st November 2011, is aimed at reducing the consumption of tobacco by supporting governments in implementing evidence-based tobacco control strategies in Africa.
The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Professor Venansius Baryamureeba said the centre would initially support five (5) countries namely Mauritania, South Africa, Kenya, Angola and Uganda, but with a long term vision of extending its support to the entire African region. Professor Baryamureeba congratulated the School of Public Health, College of Health Sciences in partnership with the Uganda Health Communication Alliance and the Uganda National Association of Community and Occupation Health, for successfully bidding to host the centre aimed at protecting the future generation against the effects of tobacco.
The Dean, School of Public Health, Dr. William Bazeyo welcomed the dignitaries who had gathered to witness the launch of the CTCA. The overjoyed Bazeyo informed the congregation that the acceptance of the Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament to officiate at the launch of the CTCA was testimony of her support to the fight against tobacco. Dr. Bazeyo added that the Speaker of Parliament and the Members of Parliament present would be instrumental in the formulation of policies and regulations to support this initiative.
The World Health Organisation Regional Director, Dr. Joaquim Sewaka said Africa is under siege from communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberclusosis and malaria yet non-communicable diseases such as cancer and heart diseases were also on the rise. Dr. Sewaka noted that smoking tobacco was one of the major causes of non-communicable diseases; he therefore applauded the establishment of the CTCA aimed at controlling the use of tobacco in Africa.
The Pupils of Yogemu Primary School, Kasangati also recited a poem on the dangers of smoking tobacco including causing lung cancer, tearing body tissues, turning the smoker’s teeth from white to yellow, among others. In the same poem, the children appealed to their parents, the Government and all Ugandans to save them from the harmful effects of passive smoking. In her address, the Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Christine Ondoa informed the congregation that the Government of Uganda had embarked on the process of formulating policy and regulation on tobacco control. She stressed that the campaign against tobacco was a genuine one; aimed at saving humanity from the harmful effects of tobacco smoking. Dr. Ondoa added that health statistics indicated that tobacco is a major health problem, which should be addressed. “More than 600,000 deaths per year worldwide are caused by second-hand smoke alone, with women and children disproportionately affected. It is therefore our duty to protect the youth from the dangers of tobacco smoking and passive smoking,” said Dr. Ondoa.
Officiating at the colourful launch, the Rt. Hon Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, Rebecca Kadaga reiterated her commitment to the fight against tobacco smoking. She noted that many people were victims of secondary smoking; and the fact that many workers (who were non-smokers) were in danger as they inhale smoke from the smokers using public places.
Rt. Hon. Kadaga informed the congregation that the Parliament of Uganda was enacting the Bill against tobacco smoking. She pledged to request the Members of Parliament to also study the effects of smoke from firewood on the women who spend hours in the Kitchen cooking for their families as well as their children who are exposed to this smoke. She also expressed gratitude to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for supporting and funding efforts aimed at tobacco control in Africa and the fight against cervical cancer.The audience was entertained by a popular musician, Keko and other artists, who performed a theme song, containing messages on “No smoking” and “appeals” to special stakeholders to stop smoking. Related article: WHO opens Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa
Writer: Ritah Namisango, Ag. Senior Public Relations Officer, Makerere University