Alcohol consumption

Namibia: alcohol consumption among young people should not become a public health crisis

As countries in southern Africa decrease restrictions on the sale of alcohol, the question that should be asked is: do we want to see and experience a permanent change in the way alcohol is sold and consumed in our communities? communities and our country?

This question should be asked by politicians, media professionals, civil society organizations working in development, injury and violence prevention, youth issues, alcoholic families, child neglect and child alcoholism.

Surprisingly, statistics show that only about a third of those over 15 drink. However, among those who drink, almost 70% drink a lot. This type of alcohol consumption causes short-term physical and social damage, including traffic accidents, interpersonal violence, child abuse and neglect, and long-term damage such as disability and impairment. Cancer.

These alcohol-related harms often clog our underfunded health facilities, overburden our police and traffic cops, and most importantly, divert government money from implementing necessary development programs that will bring about meaningful change. to individuals, families and communities.

The way alcohol is consumed and the damage caused by heavy alcohol consumption, along with readily available and low alcohol prices, and aggressive and glamorous advertising create a misperception of “mass consumption” . Statistics show that this is not true. It is the minority of people who drink, and the government has a responsibility to protect those who do not drink as well as those who drink.

Covid-19 has shown that our government can act in the interest of public health. Preventing 15-year-olds from drinking today and tomorrow is a public health issue. Statistics from the Namibian School Alcohol and Other Drugs Survey Project indicate that 14.9% of 15-18 year olds drink heavily.

This means drinking until they are drunk, which makes them vulnerable to unprotected sex; sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV; sexual assault and rape; teenage pregnancies, dropping out of school and physical violence.

It impacts their schooling, their social skills and contributes to the breakdown of relations between the children and the rest of their families.

Of course, adults also drink a lot. They drink and drive; spend household income and are then involved in domestic violence and child neglect because there is no money for food, education, health, transportation and more alcohol.

Governments can use policy to change the environment in which alcohol is sold and consumed, thereby creating conditions that can reduce underage alcohol use, reduce violence, reduce sexual health problems, and improve performance. schooling and family relationships.

Introduce policies that increase the minimum price of alcohol; limiting how it is advertised and reducing its availability, especially in residential areas, is in the hands of our government as it plans to rebuild our countries for a post-Covid future.

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) Namibia urges our Namibian government to embrace its power and mandate to significantly change the lives of our citizens by introducing evidence-based alcohol policies.

* Irene Kauzuu is Country Liaison Officer SAAPA Namibia