Chronic illness and death destroys livelihood and incomes, undermines the
skills base in the fishing workforce, and reduces productivity. This is a
threat to sustainable fisheries, poverty elimination and economic
growth, the report said.
It added that the productivity of the fisheries sector, which makes up 12
percent of Uganda's Gross Domestic Product and nearly 20 percent of its
total exports, could witness a decline with the impact of HIV/AIDS.
The 2004 survey studied 21 communities living on the shores of Lake
George, Lake Edward, Lake Albert, the Albert Nile, at the border with the
DR Congo and Lake Victoria, which Uganda shares with the East African
countries of Kenya and Tanzania.
Recorded HIV/AIDS cases up to the end of 2002 showed that the highest
prevalence in the country was in districts located along the shoreline of
Twenty four percent of fishers on Lake Albert were HIV-positive, compared
to four percent in the nearby agricultural villages. In Kasenyi [on] Lake
George, 81 percent of the people who were able to access Voluntary
Counseling and Testing in 2004 were found to be HIV-positive, the survey
The commissioner of fisheries, Dick Nyeko, said HIV/AIDS had the potential
to reduce the availability of fish as people become too weak to fish and
fishing skills are lost.
Nyeko observed that the sector produced affordable fish products that
supported food security for 17 million Ugandans annually. Over 300,000
tonnes of fish are produced every year, with fish consumption accounting
for fifty percent of all animal protein consumption in the country.
An HIV/AIDS management official noted that most fishing communities lived
in clusters in isolated locations.
This [isolation] makes it difficult for them to access basic services.
They lack access to safe water, latrines and healthcare, making them
vulnerable to illness, Prof John Rwomushana, director of research and
quality development at the Uganda AIDS Commission, said on Monday.
The survey found an increase in the number of fishermen opting to fish in
shallow waters as people became too weak to take on the strenuous task of
Fish breed in shallow areas. If these are heavily targeted, it has
considerable implications for the long-term state of the fish stock. A
sick fishing labour force will negate sustainable fishing, it said.
Rwomushana said the government was using the findings to develop a road
map for all players to follow in order to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS
on the fishing sector.
The programme, coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry
and Fisheries, the Uganda AIDS Commission and other departments, will
work to reduce HIV transmission as a direct response to the threat it
poses to the productivity and sustainability of fisheries resources.
It will also help address other problems facing Uganda's lakeside
communities, including access to education, health centres, electricity,
safe water and roads.
The survey further found that none of the communities on Lake Kyoga, Lake
George and Lake Edward had access to safe drinking water, and frequent
outbreaks of cholera and dysentery were reported. The nearest hospitals
were some 67 km away, and took up to six hours to reach.
Up to 700,000 people are directly employed by the fishing sector in
Uganda, and 1.2 million households are totally or partially dependent on
The country has seen national HIV/AIDS prevalence rates drop from 13
percent in the early 1990s to 6 percent by 2004, but according to UNAIDS,
the disease remains the leading cause of death for Ugandans aged between
15 and 49 years. (Source: IRIN Plusnews, 19 July 2005)