There is a worrying report from Isingiro District in western Uganda that more than 300 head of cattle have gone blind and at least 14 have died in what authorities suspect could be due to fake acaricides.
The concern came to the fore after the Isingiro District chairman, Mr Jeremiah Kamurari, asked the Ministry of Agriculture, to address the matter following suspicion that many dairy farmers were using concoctions and acaricides to spray their animals.
Worse still is the revelation that farmers access these drugs through normal channels, which points to the possibility that our checks are not up to date. In July last year, reports emerged that fake cattle vaccines were in use for more than two years after the country paid Shs6 billion to the supplier.
The cattle medicine is just one of the many counterfeit products that the country is grappling with. A 2018 report by Uganda National Bureau of Standards indicates that more than 54 per cent of goods on the market are fake, although sections of the public think it is as high as 80 per cent.
“From the study, it was established that a cross-section of products on the Ugandan market both imported and domestically manufactured are substandard. On average, 54 per cent of the sampled products failed tests for compliance to Ugandan standards. Under import inspection function, 133,517 contingents were inspected against planned inspection of 120,000,” the report says.
The substandard products are mainly foods and beverages, followed by cosmetics and chemicals, electronics and electro appliances, and construction products. The effects of substandard products are adverse. For example, the principal regulatory officer National Drugs Authority, Mr Vincent Kayizi Magembe, says most of the fumigants the farmers are using are dangerous chemicals, which are meant for hard surfaces, and they can cause cancer to humans if exposed to skin.
Falsified and substandard drugs may also contain toxic and dangerous ingredients, which cause poisoning. Many times, poor-quality medicines compromise the treatment of chronic and infectious diseases, causing disease progression, drug resistance, and can in extreme cases result in death.
In case of construction or electronic products, they may lead to death when houses collapse or burn.
We appreciate the fact that government introduced the pre-export verification of conformity to standard (PVOC), which helps to verify products from their original countries.
However, implementation should be stricter to avert such occurrences. The cows may go blind today, but it might be human beings going blind tomorrow.