Malawi: Minister Launches New National Alcohol Policy
On August 18, 2017, almost ten years after initial attempts the Minister of Health, Atupele Muluzi, finally launched the new national alcohol policy. The new National Alcohol Policy for Malawi has been in the making since 2008, when a group of NGOs concerned about the pervasive alcohol harm in the communities initiated the process.
With the National Alcohol Policy now in place, communities will be supported and empowered to use their local knowledge and expertise in adopting effective approaches to prevent and reduce the harmful use of alcohol,” said Muluzi in his speech as Guest of Honour at the launch ceremony.”
The Minister of Health admitted that even if Malawi had made attempts to stem the tide of growing alcohol problems, the efforts had not been sufficient as any legal provisions are outdated and not in conformity with international standards.
Malawi 24 reports that the minister also said:
… alcohol consumption has a negative impact on the development of the country. … it is only a sober person who can help in developing Malawi…”
WHO standards and best buy policy measures
The new National Alcohol Policy is aimed at regulating distribution, production and sale of alcohol in Malawi. The government is hopeful the policy will reduce alcohol consumption overall and with it alcohol harm, this way promoting sustainable development.
The new policy recommends a broad number of measures to help prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm, such as hiv/aids, gender-based violence, family problems, poverty, and non-communicable diseases.
The menu of measures was outlined taking advice from the WHO Global Alcohol Strategy and contains measures to decrease the availability of alcohol, the restrict alcohol marketing, and to increase the prices of alcohol through taxation – which are the three best buy policy interventions. Additionally the new policy includes measures to prevent and reduce incidents of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) as well as awareness raising and public education to complement the best buys.
The Malawi policy takes the WHO Global Alcohol Strategy from 2010 as its starting point and builds on the best international research, combined with profund knowledge about local realities in Malawi.
Countering Big Alcohol lobbying, NGOs mount decade long advocacy campaign
The initiative to develop the policy was taken in 2008 by Drug Fight Malawi, a development NGO with a special focus on prevention of problems related to alcohol, other drugs and tobacco. At that time, conviction grew to counter alcohol industry lobbying in several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. As Big Alcohol attempted to set the agenda and water-down national policies, a civil society movement emerged in Malawi.
A broad alliance of government agencies and civil society organizations was formed and the practical work on the formulation of a policy document was done by a Task Force Committee chaired by the Ministry of Home Affairs and with Drug Fight Malawi as secretariat.
Speaking at the ceremony, the chair of the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) Mr. Phillip Chimponda highlighted that the largest and most important task is yet to be accomplished: the implementation of the new alcohol policy.
Resource mobilization is a very big challenge to implement such policies. Therefore government’s continued collaboration with all identified relevant stakeholders is paramount in achieving the desired outcome.
SAAPA therefore calls on your government to continue its political will and commitment to support the implementation of the policy.”