The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has asked Parliament’s Health Committee considering the Public Health (Amendment) Bill 2021 to delete sections that are in the Animal Diseases Act Cap. 38.
The Minister of State for Agriculture, Bright Rwamirama said the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ministry advised that some crosscutting roles of actors that are not pertinent and relevant to public health goals be deleted from the Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
Rwamirama presented the ministry’s views on the Bill to the committee on Wednesday March, 9 2021.
He added that the Health Ministry has retained some sections in the Bill that are entirely the mandate of the Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Ministry which need to be removed.
This includes roles supposed to be played by a veterinary officer which have been given to the Minister for Health.
Rwamirama cited section 104(2) (g) of the Bill that empowers the Health Minister to make rules and regulations for inspection and regulation of manufacture, preparation, storage and transmission of any article of food.
He said it is only a veterinarian who has the technical competency to inspect live animals and their products to ascertain presence or absence of animal diseases and whether the products are fit for human consumption.
“The inspection and certification of agricultural products should remain the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries if Uganda is to control the spread of crop, animal and fish diseases and still trade internationally,” said Rwamirama.
He added that inspection and certification functions are already provided for in the Animal Disease Act, Plant Protection Act and the Fish Act, among others.
The Minister justified the need to expunge the section from the Bill and incorporate it in the Animal Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2022Rwamirama also said that clause 25 of the Public Health (Amendment) Bill that provides for notification of sickness or mortality in animals suspected of any disease should be removed.
“Section 5 of the Animal Diseases Act gives a veterinary officer power to direct the slaughtering of any animal affected or suspected of being affected by any disease…,” said the Minister.
Hon. Elisa Rutahigwa, who chaired the committee meeting said the role of food monitoring by the Health Ministry should be limited to food already produced for human consumption.
“Food from the plants we eat, comes from soil and the Health Ministry has no mandate in managing the soil. It also has no mandate to take care of the animals or fish. When food has been produced, then the ministry should start from there,” said Rutahigwa.
Hon. Sharon Laker (NRM, Gulu District) said there is need to harmonize the roles played by health workers and veterinary officers so as to prevent duplication of roles.
Hon Victor Nekesa (UPDF) urged the Ministries of Health and Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to work in tandem saying Uganda’s economy relies on production covering a healthy population and healthy agricultural and animal produce.