Demand for food reserves, restriction of marketing of unhealthy foods and food safety in uganda

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With support from AVAAZ FOUNDATION, CEFROHT has offered community food emergence support to almost 5000 families who have gravely been disrupted by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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The government has a constitutional obligation to establish national food reserves under Objective XXII (b) of the 1995 constitution. This  duty helps to guarantee food security, mitigates hunger, prevents malnutrition and ensures that everyone enjoys the right to livelihood.  COVID 19 pandemic has worsened malnutrition and related deaths in Uganda. Food reserves would have therefore been a critical tool in realising food security especially in times of unforeseen economic hardships or natural calamities like the COVID 19 pandemic.

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Proper nutrition is undoubtedly one of the key factors for early childhood development. It is however unfortunate that in most developing countries, nutrition is very poor and malnutrition among children and mothers is a major cause of infant mortality, stunted growth and underweight.

The UNICEF Uganda nutrition statistics of 2018 show that 3.6% of the children in Uganda are suffering from moderate acute nutrition and 1.3% have severe acute nutrition. The Ministry of Health report indicates that the infant mortality rate in Uganda as of 2018 was 33 deaths per 1000 live births and one of the key underlying causes was malnutrition.  Mothers and pregnant women need to be encouraged to pay keen attention of their nutritional welfare and emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and after the birth of their children. This is a major requirement as scientific research has highlighted that the first 1000 days as the most crucial for a child’s growth and optimal development.

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The CEFROHT and SEATINI are Non-Government Organizations bringing this public interest cause on behalf of female employees in commercial investment schemes.

The Government of Uganda is currently implementing a public-private partnership with vegetable oil development projects in partnership with BIDCO and WILMAR as Oil Palm Uganda Limited (OPUL) among other commercial investment schemes in Uganda in several sectors to which Uganda has signed a number of bilateral investment treaties.

The Investment Code Act, 2019, which is the principal law regulating investment schemes does not provide for a requirement to conduct Human Rights Impact assessments by investors prior to and during the implementation of investment projects. The Occupation Health and Safety Act put an obligation on the employer to provide protective gear but this has not been implementing in some workplaces. Uganda has signed a number of Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), 6 of which. The treaties focus on protecting the rights of investors at the expense of citizens. As such, investors have not been held accountable for the acts of violating the rights of workers.

Our interactions with the present and former workers in investment schemes, revealed that workers are not given adequate food, many times go all day doing hard labor but without a meal, those that are given some food like posho and beans reported that this food is rotten most times and unsafe for human consumption, women were found to be adversely affected by the lack of appropriate personal protective gears which exposes them to chemicals that burn and irritate their skin and nose, very low wages as low as 4,400 Uganda shillings per week; very heavy workload involving carrying up to 1,200 kilograms of load a day; denial of paid maternity and annual leave.

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The government of Uganda is under a legal mandate to uphold, protect, and fulfill the rights of all Ugandans including children’s rights to safety, health, adequate food, and well-being. Many Ugandans are however suffering and at risk of chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, and other obesity-related conditions yet these can be prevented.

In Uganda, Non-Communicable Diseases kill up to 100,000 people annually, which is 35% of the total annual deaths. Uganda is a member of the World Health Organisation and passed a resolution to act on the main risk factors for Non-Communicable Diseases that is the unhealthy diet. Unhealthy diets start in childhood and build up throughout life; associated with overweight and obesity and children must maintain a healthy weight and consume foods that are low in saturated fat, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt in order to reduce future risk of non-communicable diseases.

Marketing, advertising and broadcast of unhealthy foods and beverages in Uganda by the media is done before and after the watershed time lines, exposing children to unhealthy diets compromising their safety, right to health and the right to adequate food.

The respondents have failed and omitted to protect children from the adverse impact of marketing of unhealthy diets on children’s health in accordance with the rights of children as acknowledged by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the right to adequate food, as set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (7), and consistent with the United Nations guidelines for consumer protection.

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Uganda is currently on lockdown due to the COVID-19 global pandemic which has had devastating effects including loss of lives across the world.  In response to the global pandemic, the government of Uganda put directives to stop social gatherings of all kinds including public transport and all services except essentials were closed. All towns and villages are on lockdown. This has led to the disruption of the social order including access to medicines and all services including food.

The government made a plan to supply food relief for the Central business district people and refused to cover other vulnerable communities who were working from hand to mouth in other districts. However, the plan has not been fully implemented up-to-date and yet people who were hand to mouth earners across the country have started starving.

Before COVID-19, 38% of children under the age of 5 were malnourished and this percentage is expected to have increased because parents do not have food to feed their children.

Before COVID-19, more than 30 percent of the total population faced some level of chronic food insecurity. The causes of food insecurity in Uganda are multifaceted, often a result of poverty, landlessness, high fertility, natural disasters, high food prices, lack of education, and the fact that a majority of Ugandans depend on agriculture as a main source of income. This has tripled in the past three months because of the lockdown due to the global pandemic and also the changes in weather conditions of Uganda.

It is on that note that CEFROHT decided to reach out to the vulnerable people in its community and supply them with some food items. We introduced a communication line where the people in need of food assistance especially the vulnerable people call, get their details, and then deliver food to their doorstep using our delivery services.

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Press Conference on World Food Safety Day

In December 2018, the UN General Assembly designated 7th June as World Food Safety Day. In the year 2020, the day was held the theme “Food safety, everyone’s business”

A press confrence was held on that day by civil society organisations promoting the right to food in Uganda including The Food Rights Alliance (FRA), Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) and the Southern and Eastern Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI).

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CEFROHT is implementing nutrition and urban farming project. This is through training women in food security, nutrition, and the right to adequate food. Women are trained on how to engage and dialogue with local leaders for the right to adequate food through public participation for inputs and community mobilization.

We, civil society organizations working on trade, investment, human rights, environment, women’s rights, and labor rights-related issues, wish to register our apprehensions for the continued promotion and protection of the rights of commercial investment schemes such as factories, flower firms, and plantation-based investments, at the expense of individuals, communities and environmental rights.

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