The Sierra Leone Alcohol Policy Alliance was launched at a big national conference in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. The new alliance is set to advocate for a national alcohol policy.
On October 28, 2015 more than 120 participants were gathered at a national conference in Freetown in Sierra Leone for a discussion on how alcohol-related harm can be reduced as part of national development efforts. The intention of the organizers, the new Sierra Leone Alcohol Policy Alliance (SLAPA) and its lead agency FORUT, was to invite civil society and government institutions to a broad and inclusive policy process to develop a National Alcohol Policy Alliance.
This policy initiative got a strong push already at the opening of the conference. Five government ministries and the WHO country office welcomed the initiative, stressed the need for more concerted action on alcohol-related harm and also promised their support in due course.
Ministry representatives included Health and Sanitation, Education, Social Welfare, among others. They all gave examples of how alcohol is an obstacle to development in their respective areas and how the consequences of alcohol use are felt by ordinary people of Sierra Leone:
- Alcohol sachets used by children in school,
- Early pregnancies and HIV infections,
- Gender-based violence,
- Rape and homicides,
- Traffic injuries and fatalities etc.
The discussion at the conference focused on how different actors can contribute to the development of a national alcohol policy, not the least how the issue of alcohol prevention can be raised with the many local communities around the country.
An important part of the conference was the launch of the Sierra Leone Alcohol Policy Alliance. This was formally done by the chairperson Ibrahim B. Kamara who used the opportunity also to present the 18 NGOs which are member of the Alliance from the start. He also introduced the first activities to be conducted by the new alliance. Priority number one is to initiate a process for developing a new national alcohol policy involving a broad range of NGOs and government institutions.