A regional organisation, SAAPA, ( Southern Africa Alcohol Policy Alliance) headquartered in Zambia has embarked on a mission in Southern Africa to advocate for an alcohol policy.
SAAPA recently undertook a three day workshop in Harare to delineate issues surrounding the alcohol policy.
The workshop which was attended by journalists, government representatives, members of the private and civil society sectors saw issues to do with harmful alcohol consumption being scrutinized.
Some of the issues that dominated the conference include the need for an alcohol policy that protects vulnerable groups like children and pregnant women. It also touched on the need to teach the community on harmful consumption and the dangers.
Jonas Ngulube, who was coordinating the workshop said ‘Our communities have normalized the issue of alcohol consumption. It is now normal for people to send their children to buy beer. We need to recognize and protect the rights of the children. No child under the age of 18 should be allowed to buy beer. Instead they must be protected.
“The increased density for liquor outlets in communities is very much a cause for concern. Increase in Illicit brews, reduction of prices of alcoholic beverages are huge issues that need tackling.
‘Unethical advertising is also one of the main aspects where advertisers are allowed to advertise their alcohol products near schools and playgrounds. We have even seen most playgrounds now being turned into beer halls and children having nowhere to play and the next thing, they are also trying out beer,’ he said.
Another major subject was that of illicit alcohol abuse which has killed thousands each year. Therefore there is need for a strategic plan to work with Governments and companies who deal with alcohol to come together in this campaign.
‘We are working on the issues and we cannot do without governments and companies interventions. What we are advocating is to take charge so that we save lives and promote development because it is also about development. Alcohol is a developmental issue as it prohibits both national and individual development’ said Ngulube
In this regard, lawful procedures are to be used by approaching through the right channels and informing the right offices in order to achieve the alcohol policy.
The issue of company advertising also goes to talk about how it is important for companies to label the dangers and effects of alcohol clearly, said Tungamirai Zimonti, co-director of YADD (Youth Against Drug and Alcohol Dependency ).
‘As youth against alcohol and drug dependence ( YADD), we believe by advocating for a health promoting alcohol policy free from vested commercial interests we are fulfilling our mission which is to build a community responsive to the life threatening nature of alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuses.
‘Heavy alcohol use and the resulting alcohol related harm represent a substantial impediment to development by exacerbating already existing social problems and poverty.
‘Companies should be able to really bring out the dangers of drinking by labeling clearly so that people have proper information. These companies are also encouraged to give back to the communities and help with developmental programs,’ said Tungamirai
The need for protection against vulnerable people like pregnant women is important. The dangers that the unborn child faces needs to be highlighted so that people are well informed and protect themselves and their children.
Health advisor from Doctor Timothy Stamps’ office of health advisor in the President’s office said they are working hard to advocate for an alcohol policy which protects the children, women and the population at large.
She went on to mention the strides that they have made so far especially with the Government and also organizations that deal with alcohol.
She mainly spoke about the labeling on the products to be clear and also encouraged on the need for social development.
People are encouraged to make careful decisions when deciding to drink and know that harmful consumption is bad for one’s health.
Irresponsible harmful consumption also leads to a lot of negatives like gender based violence, road accidents, reckless sexual behavior which leads to diseases like HIV/AIDS and other STIs. This is because most people fail to control themselves when under the influence of alcohol.