At 3rd East African Alcohol Policy Conference IOGT International outlines the perils of Western lifestyle and the hope coming from Africa
“We are truly happy and humble to be able to take part in this conference together with many high-level, and honorary participants from governments and civil society from all over East Africa,” says Kristina Sperkova, the Vice President of IOGT International.
The 2012 alcohol policy conference in the East African Community is held today and tomorrow in Arusha, Tanzania and carries the title: ‘Act Now’.
“‘Act Now’ is a well-chosen theme because what the world needs is a strong move beyond collecting data and statistics,” says Kristina Sperkova. “East Africa, like all other regions in the world, really needs efforts for implementing evidence-based policy measures that are proven to be cost-effective and efficient in promoting health and societal development.”
Extensive research from all over the world makes it clear that those measures are: increasing alcohol taxes, banning alcohol marketing, decreasing the availability through restricting opening hours and outlet density, increasing the legal age for alcohol use. Evidence shows the harm and suffering of NCDs can be prevented by means of cost-effective interventions that tackle shared risk factors: alcohol use, tobacco use, unhealthy diet, insufficient physical activity. If the NCD risk factors were to be eliminated, ¾ of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and 40% of cancers would be prevented.
“It’s today of fundamental importance that decision-makers use these tools for protecting their people, the economy, health system and the future of their countries,” explains Kristina Sperkova. “We face the threat of NCDs in all corners of the world, hitting the developed as well as the developing countries – and alcohol use is a major risk factor.”
NCDs account for as much as 63% of all deaths worldwide. It means that they cause 36 million out of 57 million global deaths.The use of alcohol causes 2.5 million deaths every year. There are 320,000 young people between 15 and 29 who have to die from alcohol-related causes. That amounts to 9% of all deaths in that age worldwide.
Today, more than 80% of the burden of premature deaths from NCDs occurs in the developing world, with the incidence highest in lower middle-income countries.
As a result, NCDs deliver a two-punch blow to economies. They cause billions of dollars in losses of national income, and they push millions of people below the poverty line.
“In the face of these scary facts, decision-makers should ask themselves: Do we want our country, our citizens, and most importantly our children and youth to be the easy targets for multinational corporations?”, says Kristina Sperkova.
“The alcohol industry sees in Africa an emerging market. They see profit. And they don’t need to care for the people, the communities whose freedom, potential, and socioeconomic progress gets wiped out by alcohol harm.”
Multinational corporations, like those of the alcohol industry, make aggressive moves to enter Africa, and other emerging markets. They use expensive marketing strategies to promote Western habits and consumption styles, often targetting children and young people, and they deploy heavy lobbying campaigns to pressure decision-makers to avoid policies that control alcohol and decrease their profits.
“A couple of years back in time, NCDs were the sickness of the developed world, the West. Today, because of the globalisation of western diets, consumption styles, and alcohol culture, NCDs weigh like a heavy burden on the developing world, too. Is this the progress the world needs? Is this the progress our children deserve?”, asks Kristina Sperkova.
“I, myself, and with me all the members of IOGT International really hope that this conference will create a big push for action now. The world doesn’t need more alcohol. The East African Community doesn’t need more alcohol. We need population-wide measures that control alcohol and prevent harm. Because the world needs more traditional, healthy African foods, freedom and dignity, and more children realising their dreams.”
For more reading:
Our Press Release
Scientific Article from Journal ADDICTION: “Vested Interests in Addiction Research and Policy Alcohol policies out of context: drinks industry supplanting government role in alcohol policies in sub-Saharan Africa”, by Endal, Dag and Bakke, Oystein
Role of Civil Society in Development of Effective Alcohol Policy: the case of Uganda, By Rogers Mutawee
The WHO Global Status Report on alcohol, 2011
The WHO Global Status Report on NCDs, 2010
World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health, Report: The Global Burden of NCDs, 2011
Non-communicable diseases in South East-Asia region, report, 2011
World Bank conference edition, 2011: The growing danger of NCDs. Acting now to reverse the course.
Monitoring Alcohol Marketing in Africa, MAMPA project, by WHO Africa