Ghana: National alcohol policy launched to regulate the trade and use of alcohol use and prevent harm
A national policy to regulate the production, distribution, sale, advertisement and consumption of alcohol has been launched in Accra, Ghana’s capital.
After years of working with key stakeholders, among them IOGT International member organization Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), to combine the fragmented laws that existed before. The 33-page document would now set out a policy direction aimed at regulating the production, distribution sale, advertisement and consumption of alcohol, with the aim of preventing and reducing alcohol harm on the individual, family and society as a whole. In addition to pulling the fragmented alcohol policy documents into one coherent approach, Ghana will also create a central and independent coordinating body to ensure the implementation and enforcement of the new policy – the Ghana National Alcohol Commission.
The policy was developed by the Ministry of Health (MoH), with support from the Baraka Policy Institute (BPI) and civil society organizations such as VALD, and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Purpose of the alcohol policy
In launching the policy, the Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, expressed the hope that the implementation of the policy would culminate in the drafting of a legislation on alcohol use.
The purpose of the new alcohol policy is to
- Protect all those who live free from alcohol and to encourage and promote abstinence,
- Reduce alcohol use in the population,
- Follow global best practice, and
- Inspire government to lead in ensuring complete compliance.
The Policy identifies major areas of importance for the reduction of alcohol related harms, and the policy acknowledges the evidence base available from WHO.
Policy focus areas include the 3 best buys
It also recognizes the best buy measures for effectively preventing and reducing alcohol harm such as increased taxation, regulating availability and marketing and counter measure against driving under the influence.
Other areas of focus include prevention and management of health effects and social services actions; surveillance, research, monitoring and evaluation; and capacity building, as well as using locally designed cultural and social interventions in preventing and reducing alcohol related harms.
Alcohol harm in Ghana
It is estimated that 23.3% of Ghanaians use alcohol, and of these some 2.1% were found to be engaging in heavy alcohol use. Per capita consumption of alcohol among heavy users stood at 20 liters per year, which reinforces the need for special strategies to tackle production, sale and consumption of locally brewed alcohol in addition to strategies for the formal industry.
The harmful effects of alcohol use on productivity, performance, social fabric and health could not be overemphasized, according the the Minister of Health Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu. The Minister outlined that alcoholism could lead to poor performance, absenteeism, job loss and chronic illnesses such as liver and heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases (NCDs). Alcohol is also associated with mental ill-health and its impact on others than the user themselves (harm to others) is also grave in Ghana, for example with regard to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) or children and youth growing up in families with alcohol problems.
In addition to the health harm, alcohol also burdens the economy in Ghana. But the Minister admitted that the the exact extent of productivity losses due to alcohol have yet to be examined properly.
The policy is designed to alleviate the burden of alcohol harm currently experienced by individuals, families, communities and society as a whole.
Informally brewed alcohol is, still, a major part of the alcohol harm in Ghana and the new policy is a call for comprehensive and innovative strategies to reduce the production, sale and consumption of local brews.
In recent years, worries have been increasing about the accelerating avalanche of alcohol marketing and a rise in alcohol use.