NATIONAL ALCOHOL POLICY: EMANCIPATION FROM ALCOHOL ABUSE OR ANOTHER DORMANT POLICY?

In many of today’s societies, alcoholic beverages are a routine part of the social landscape for many in the population. This is particularly true for those in social environments with high visibility and societal influence, nationally and internationally, where alcohol frequently accompanies socializing. In this context, it is easy to overlook or discount the health and social damage caused or contributed to by drinking.

The above averment is according to the World Health Organization(WHO) which also revealed that alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. Overall, harmful use of alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of diseases.

Harmful use of alcohol is accountable for 7.1% and 2.2% of the global burden for males and females respectively. Alcohol is the leading risk factor for premature mortality and disability among those aged 15 to 49 years, accounting for 10 percent of all deaths in this age group. Disadvantaged and especially vulnerable populations have higher rates of alcohol-related death and hospitalization.

But then what is the intention of consuming alcohol? lies the fundamental inquisition especially in progressing and vulnerable societies.

The goal of using drugs is formed in the same way as any other goal. It is determined largely by, first, the value that the person places on drugs and, second, the person’s expected chances of being able to get the desired benefits from their use.

A remnant portion of society may use alcohol as a social norm, peer pressure, as an act of rebellion especially among teenagers, stress reliever and some for relaxation and leisure related matters.

However, a negative experience with alcohol will do just the opposite. Usually accompanied by larger intakes resulting in short-term and long-term physical mental and social effects, this act or condition is known as alcohol abuse and it may also lead to other alcohol-related disorders.

Alcohol abuse is a disease and disorder under the description of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

It is also defined when one realizes that the amount of time spent in obtaining alcohol, drinking alcohol or recovering from the effects of drinking alcohol. This results in too much time devoted to alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is also denominated as reactions that distort both professional and domestic responsibilities as well as manipulate psychology and physiological uprightness after consumption.

Consequences of alcohol abuse may lead to financial mishaps, suicide, sexually transmitted diseases, domestic violence, psychological defects such as stress, depression, social isolation, crime, anti-social behaviours, low or poor performance at work and in school, recurrences on your failure to fulfill some of your major obligations to your family at home and community.

However, addressing the harmful use of alcohol requires “a whole of government” and “whole of society” approach with the appropriate engagement of public health-oriented NGOs, professional associations and civil society groups.

The World Health Organization(WHO) in particular ensures the protection of the health of the population by preventing and reducing the harmful use of alcohol as a public health priority.

The 2010 WHO Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol continues to be the most comprehensive international policy document providing guidance on reducing the harmful use of alcohol at all levels. 

And whether negative or positive attributes towards its use, there is always a need for an alcohol policy that looks at both the national and international level of social and health problems caused by the harmful use of it as required by coordinated concerted actions by different parts of the United Nations system and regional intergovernmental organizations in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

And in the same gesture, in 2018 the government of Zambia launched the National Alcohol Policy (NAP) to help reduce alcohol abuse and any other related activities.

The policy urges the private sector to take full advantage of the public-private partnership policy under the Ministry of Commerce to make a lasting positive impact on the alcohol landscape.

This sector must be involved in programmes that prevent, reduce, treat and rehabilitate people and families affected by alcohol-related harm.

The policy advocates that producers and retailers have a special duty of ensuring that alcohol is sold in accordance with national laws and regulations such as the Liquor Licensing Act of 2011, provisions of the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) and By-laws from Local Authorities and Chiefdoms.

The policy is also mandated to work with various stakeholders and institutions such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Local government and Housing and the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance(SAAPA) to help in reducing the harms or defects of alcohol abuse in society.

But ever since the policy was enacted, has it done justice towards its implementation processes and functions?

In an interview with the Lusaka Star, Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Abel Kabalo says the policy was launched last year with its framework and that all key stakeholders were playing their role in ensuring its success.

“All these stakeholders are aware of the policy. Some are already implementing it as they have the framework. There is also need to educate people on responsible drinking and discourage drinking that disturbs the social norms and harm of one’s health,” he said.

Dr Kabalo highlighted that one of the difficulties in advocating for responsible drinking is that alcohol is legal in Zambia and almost a lot of people have access to it.

He also commented on the recent reports that Zambian women were amongst the highest consumers of alcohol in the world.

Dr Kabalo stated that a small step survey corrected the notion and that it looked at predisposing factors of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) of alcohol which confirmed that it was actually men who drink more than women in Zambia.

The Ministry of Health spokesperson emphasized that the reports were mistaken for another survey that was conducted on university and college drinkers which had more female consumers than men due to early exposure to social life and partying.

He said it also did not mean that the female university or college goers in Zambia were the highest consumers in the country or world but that men were still the highest in the general population.

Dr Kabalo also noted the positive response from some local councils in ensuring that bars, night clubs and taverns operated within the confines of the law.

He said that the Ministry also recently held a religious Indaba on 21st to 22nd November, 2018 to help in promoting healthy living as well as teach about alcohol abuse in churches and families.

The Ministry of Health Spokesperson also expressed that alcohol was the greatest attributed factor when it came to road traffic accidents in the country.

Underage drinking is also being addressed effectively by arresting minor drinkers and scrutinizing the places where people drink from,” he stated.

He urged all students, the media and other stakeholders to play a key role in educating people on responsible and harmful use of alcohol as it robes the country of human resource and productivity which was fundamental for economic growth.

Dr Kabalo emphasized that the onus of implementing the policy was not entirely up to the Ministry but required a whole societal and national effort.

Meanwhile, the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) said it is working with the government to ensure the effectiveness of the policy.

SAAPA Public Relations Officer Jonas Ngulube said since the government launched the national alcohol policy last year, it was engaging government lined ministries such as local government, health and traditional affairs, religious leaders in ensuring that the policy was effective.

Mr Ngulube mentioned that the Alliance had also been engaging other stakeholders in mapping out implementation activities in different provinces especially in Lusaka.

The SAAPA Public Relations Officer said that the alliance had been operating on a technical and coordination level thus working hand in hand with other organizations in carrying out outreach programmes that address alcohol abuse in various communities.

“Our members go out in these communities and tell people to visit rehabilitation centers such as Chainama Hills Hospital and that is why there has been an increase in the number of people and that being of alcohol abuse,” he explained.

He, however, noted that the effectiveness of the policy would not be measured anytime sooner because there was a need for the government to monitor how this policy was being implemented.

“We were recently doing an evaluation of which processes or areas we should work on first in the policy and we also contacted some civil society groups to consult on which areas they would want to take lead in as well,” he explained.

Mr Ngulube said from the civil society perspective there was also a monitoring tool that had been put in place to monitor the closing and opening of bars.

And Chainama Hills Hospital Public Relations Manager, George Tafuna said alcohol abuse was the topmost admissions the hospital had been receiving with statistics of about 44 percent being youths since the beginning of the year.

He said that the youths were the future of the country’s development in terms of human resource and that if they were disturbed by drug abuse then it meant disturbing national development too.

If there is any damage to any part of society, it means that the government would need to spend a lot of resources in trying to improve or safeguard the health and welfare of people.

Mr Tafuna also said that the National Alcohol Policy had given the Hospital an avenue in order to come up with a term of reference on how to conduct activities toward combating alcohol abuse.

He said alcohol is classed as a sedative-hypnotic drug which means it acts to depress the central nervous system at high doses. At lower doses, alcohol can act as a stimulant, inducing feelings of euphoria and talkativeness.

Jokingly, Mr Tafuna emphasized that liquor, beer, wine, champagne and malt beverages are many examples of alcohol which are synchronously used by a lot of people to describe it as “beer”.

At the interim of the interview, the Chainama Hills Hospital Public Relations Manager said the Hospital had come up with implementation plans to go into the communities and form friendly corners in trying to help youths affected with alcohol abuse.

He, however, mentioned that the only challenge the Hospital had been facing was monetary challenges as there was a need for stakeholders and corporate entities to ensure that these outreach programmes were effective.

Mr Tafuna had also advised individuals affected with alcohol abuse to make personal decisions and ensure that they make adjustments towards improving their health as it was important.

He suggested that people affected with alcohol abuse could visit the Chainama Hills Hospital and access rehabilitation and therapeutic services so as to recover from the vice.

A safe guide to drinking alcohol by Dr David Montgomery

On a sad note; On the 6th of April, 2019 a 20- year- old man of Mtendere Township in Lusaka was stabbed to death by his friends at JCS Complex in Longacres.
The deceased was killed after picking up a quarrel with friends at JCS bar in Longacres.

The suspects were detained in police custody while the body of the deceased had been deposited at the University Teaching Hospital mortuary.

The three in question are believed to have been intoxicated during the predicament.

The Lusaka City Council (Health Division) section later closed down the Chinese owned JCS bar for non-compliance matters.

Comments

comments

Tapela Lungu

    Tapela Lungu is an award winning writer and Media and Communication studies student at the University of Zambia who has a strong passion to write, read and explore. He is currently the Managing Editor for the online magazine. As a writer he has a strong interest for human interest stories, community news and stories that impact human development and health.

    -->