Gulu, a city in waiting where chewing Khat is on the rise

Khat is globally chewed among youth. Courtesy photo.

By Norine Kazombo

Khat or qat is the leaves of an Arabian hedge plant which are chewed (or drunk as an infusion) as a pick-me-up.

Qat has been grown for use as a stimulant for centauries in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and in some other countries, it’s known as qaat, jimaa in Oromo language [in Somalia] and as chat in Ethiopia. In Ugandan local dialects, it’s known as mayirungi, marungi or mira.

According to recent reports, over 20 million people globally are constantly using qat as stimulant, even though chewing or using it is illegal in some countries.

In Gulu, quite a number of people have so far resorted into selling khat commonly known as mira which if consumed for a long time encumber, human health, according to the Gulu District Health Educator Mr. Williams Ongai.

 According to our exclusive findings, the leaves are being sold in busy trading centers and many of the sellers have a high expectation of expanding the business to different areas within the municipal.

Opiro Michael, 25, a resident of Layibi village, Layibi division in Gulu municipality and a father of two children in an interview said the business has far-off helped him feed his small family, pays for house rent.

“Many and I people use khat, are engaged in it as a business because it’s a guarantee that no matter what, I have to go home with money in my pocket,” he narrates.

Another person – a seller and chewer, Kimara Moses, 23, a student said he operates the business for sustainability, transport and to get some money for lunch.

“I do not have a reliable supplier and sometimes most customers buy on credit and this limits my income,” he stated this as one of the challenges he faces in the course of carrying out his business.

Meanwhile, many girls and women have so far joined hands with men in selling khat, they say they do not have any other work that they can do to support them financially and some of them being single mothers have to take care of their children.

They say mira makes them have sleepless nights and enable them work harder.

One of them who refused to tell his name says: “It makes me feel sharp and i feel active to make money besides; it makes me feel clever more than anyone around,” anonymous consumer reveals.        

According to the Gulu district health Educator Mr. William Ongai, he discourages people mostly long truck drivers and youths who are super khat chewers.

The health educator says it has some associated effects in our body health wise, adding it causes brain damage, affect the lung, changes in teeth colour, and it leads to addiction.

These he says most of the youths admitted to the mental health unit are sufferers from cases of drug addiction as they start from chewing khat to talking opium.

“Youth should do exercise and stop the belief that khat relief them from stress, making them brave enough and should involve themselves in doing income generating activities that can help change their lives”, he counsels.

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