By Eronie Kamukama
It is 1:00 pm and most roads in Kikoni lead to restaurants and kiosks because it is time to have lunch. The road between Kare, Akwata Empora, Dreamworld and Naliika hostels in Makerere Kikoni is crowded as students get in and out of their hostels to get something to eat.
In front of Kare hostel are three kiosks, one selling rolex (chapatti and fried eggs), the other two selling chips and deep fried fish.
Just beside Naliika hostel, is a restaurant that has no sign post showing its name but most people make their way to this restaurant every lunch time. For them to access it, the students have to jump over a sewage trench that runs in front of the restaurant. They seem not to be bothered by the trench and the safety of the food given.
There is a wide variety of food; from matooke, cassava, fried and boiled rice, chips to different kinds of stew. This food is prepared in different ways. The matooke is prepared in a sack.
The posho is prepared in a saucepan after which it is stored in a polythene bag, while the rice is covered by a polythene bag to protect it from contamination.
Despite this, it is one of the most crowded restaurants in Kikoni during the day because the students keep queuing up to make orders.
The cheapest meals are; plain chips, matooke, posho and rice with bean stew which cost UGX2, 000. The cooks keep packing their clients’ food in white polythene bags which they take back to their hostels and transfer the food to a plate.
Why students buy this food
Mildred Asiimwe, one of the students who buys food from this restaurant, says the restaurant is near her hostel and provides nice local food at a cheaper price compared to other restaurants. She adds that she has to buy this food at lunch time and then buy chips for her supper because that is what she can afford.
However, for some students, their choice of restaurant has nothing to do with money.
Anthony Ssenyonga says, “The food is readily available for some of us who do not cook so I do not see the reason as to why I should not buy it.”
However, not all students eat local food or food from restaurants and so the rest prefer to buy fast foods like chips, chaps, sausages from kiosks along this dusty road in Kikoni.
Maria Nankya, a third year student says she only buys junk food from the kiosks because she has no time to cook.
“I buy junk food every day because sometimes I do not have time to cook or when I have time, I feel too lazy to cook. It is an easier way of eating what I want,” Nankya says.
The students are aware that the place where this food is prepared is dirty but they go ahead to eat the food.
Nankya says, “I think about the safety of this food and I know that the place is dirty but I always console myself since everyone else eats it and no one has died. I do not have any options. Am usually told that i could get diseases or infections, but I know I can always buy medicine and become fine.”
In a bid to reduce expenses spent on food and save money for another meal, some students have developed health complications.
Rose Mugobya, a student says there was a night she bought sausages and got diarrhea which kept her awake till morning when she bought medicine.
Harriet Nakimera, another student, says, “I bought a mixture of chips and beef stew but after eating I went to the hospital because I was vomiting and I had diarrhea.”
What experts say
According to Charles Ssemugabo, a teaching assistant at the Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health – School of Public Health, it is not surprising that the students develop health problems after eating this food. He notes that the main concern is about the people who handle this food.
It is recommended that these people who handle the food be examined for communicable diseases like cholera, diarrhea and skin diseases but most of them do not undergo any medical examination. There are chances that they can transmit diseases to their clients
He adds that the food handlers sometimes have no head gears, and have long nails, rings and bracelets that harbor contaminants and this is more common among those who are not monitored.
Ssemugabo also explains that it is advisable to prepare food from a clean place or using clean utensils, however, this is not the case with these kiosks. He observes that these people use these work tops daily without disinfecting them yet they harbor dust, germs which compromises food safety.
Trasias Mukama, another teaching assistant at School of Public Health at Mulago Hospital says the food in some kiosks is not well cooked.
“Some people do not cook food to the required temperature. There are bacteria that survive in high temperature and if the food is not cooked to that temperature, the bacteria will survive and cause infections once the food is eaten,” Mukama says.
He emphasizes that some restaurant and kiosk owners keep the leftover food to sell it later which exposes it to contamination. If the food is not well warmed to a certain temperature, it might be unsafe to eat.
Mukama urges students to be concerned about having their food packed in polythene bags. He says once these bags are exposed to dirt, they can cause diseases like diarrhea. Storing food in a relatively safe place to avoid cross-contamination is recommended.