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AMREF Africa CEO calls for increased taxes on sugar

Dr. Gitahi Githinji at the National Health Promotion Conference. PHOTO via @JaneRuth_Aceng

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT  | The global Chief Executive Officer of international NGO, AMREF Africa, Dr. Gitahi Githinji, has called for legislation on fast foods and sugar if Uganda is to tackle the growing public health threat of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

He said recent statistics are showing that globally sugar in both it’s visible and non visible forms are killing more people than accidents and terror activities and that sugar is more dangerous than gun powder.

Githinji made the remarks while delivering a key note address at the inaugural annual National Health Promotion Conference yesterday at the Speke Resort Munyonyo. He said the cheapest way of handling the sugar challenge is increasing taxation on sugary things like soda which he says in just a 300ml bottle which has over 100grams of sugar and then the proceeds from such can be used to conduct health promotion campaigns that discourage it’s use.

He said as countries are discussing Universal Health Coverage (UHC) they are focusing on providing healthcare for those that are sick and how people can be able to afford care and yet for him the biggest discussion should be on how to keep healthy. For him, simple interventions like maintaining proper sanitation and ensuring that children are vaccinated is more effective in achieving health for all and can turn around the grim picture where Uganda still suffers high disease burden and yet 75% of these are preventable.

On his part, the World Health Organisation Country Representative Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldermariam said Uganda has already been successful in handling immunization campaigns with the recent Rubella-Measles and Polio campaign held last month successfully reaching up to 20 million children.

He said the country only needs to ensure that children turn up for routine immunization and finish their doses.  He said for most of the interventions into prevention, they don’t need high financial investment or policy documents like declarations because those are already available.

Dr. Woldermariam said what is required now is making declarations made in conferences practical and taking them to the community. The two-day conference is being held under the theme investing in health promotion and disease prevention to achieve Universal Health Coverage.

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