The Seventy-second session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa is held in hybrid format in Lomé, Togo, from August 22 to 26, 2022, under Special procedures for the conduct of the hybrid session of the Regional Committee for Africa.
On the agenda of WHO AFRO RC72 are issues, such as:
- Agenda item 6: Annual report of the Regional Director on the work of WHO in the African Region,
- Agenda item 7: PEN-Plus – A regional strategy to address severe noncommunicable diseases at first-level referral health facilities, and
- Agenda item 8: Framework to strengthen the implementation of the comprehensive mental health action plan 2013–2030 in the WHO African Region.
Movendi International is represented at WHA75 and engaging through bilateral and coalition-driven advocacy.
Movendi International will be calling on WHO Member States and the WHO Secretariat for the African Region to finally make alcohol policy the priority it should be and to keep public health action on alcohol, front and center in the period until 2030.
(Yes) and no!
Alcohol policy is not on the agenda of the 2022 regional committee meeting for WHO in the African region. Despite the heavy and growing alcohol burden – further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and increasingly aggressive alcohol industry practices – alcohol harm continues to be omitted from special consideration as stand alone agenda item.
- Alcohol harm is included in agenda item 8, where Member States will discuss the Framework to strengthen the implementation of the comprehensive mental health action plan 2013–2030 in the WHO African Region (Document AFR/RC72/5)
- Leaving a glaring gap, the role of alcohol in creating the burden of severe NCDs is not addressed under agenda item 7 dealing with PEN-Plus – A regional strategy to address severe noncommunicable diseases at first-level referral health facilities (Document AFR/RC72/4 and
- And alcohol policy has bee omitted from the report of the Regional Director under agenda item 6 “Annual report of the Regional Director on the work of WHO in the African Region (Document AFR/RC72/3)”. This shows that alcohol policy does yet not receive the political attention commensurate with the burden alcohol harm places on people, communities, and societies in the African region.
- To make alcohol policy the priority it should be – meaning to ensure alcohol policy will be on the agenda of the WHO AFRO Regional Committee in the future;
- To mainstream alcohol policy considerations in all relevant policy discussions (where they are currently absent) – such as severe NCDs, resilient health systems, health emergencies, and women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health.
- To partner with governments and WHO AFRO to help advance evidence-based, high-impact alcohol policy solutions, especially alcohol taxation and the other best buys.
Movendi International, through its Official Relationship Status with the WHO, will address the WHO AFRO RC72 through three statements.
Annual report of the Regional Director on the work of WHO in the African Region
Regional strategy to address severe NCDs at first-level referral health facilities
The ten years since the adoption of the WHO Global Alcohol Strategy in 2010 must be considered a lost decade for alcohol policy development – especially in the WHO African Region.
In recognising the growing alcohol burden and the lack of progress over the past decade, Member States adopted the WHO Global Alcohol Action Plan (GAAP) at the World Health Assembly in May 2022. The GAAP is also backed by an ambitious statement delivered by Kenya on behalf of all African Union member states.
Now, it is time for WHO and countries in the African Region to build on the momentum and accelerate action on alcohol in sub-Saharan Africa.
We are concerned about rising alcohol harm in the African region.
We call for urgent action to put alcohol policy on Regional Committee Meeting agenda to facilitate momentum for ambitious alcohol policy efforts to promote health and development.
- A new and ambitious framework for alcohol policy in Africa, with regular discussion at the regional committee;
- High-level political commitment to the WHO SAFER initiative; and
- Regional collaboration on cross-border alcohol issues.
We also call for effective mainstreaming of alcohol policy considerations in all relevant policy areas, such as severe NCDs and mental health.
We remain concerned about the lack of attention to alcohol as a major driver of severe NCDs. Alcohol is a serious driver of diabetes, cardiomyopathy, and hypertension. The 2020 WHO PEN package recommended that alcohol be addressed in health centers for patients with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Addressing alcohol’s contribution to severe NCDs
- helps identify and treat co-morbidities in the patient;
- facilitates the promotion of healthy lifestyle; and
- ensures cost-effective use of invested resources in health centers.
We call on Member States and WHO Africa to:
- Invest in addressing alcohol as a major risk factor for severe NCDs;
- Train and empower health centers to address alcohol with their patients; and
- Use alcohol policy interventions to reduce costs and generate funds for the overall response to NCDs.
The WHO AFRO Secretariat report contains strong analysis of the alcohol burden in Africa and its contribution to mental ill-health.
We share the growing concern about:
- The number of youth in Africa who are consuming alcohol;
- The rising problem of alcohol use disorder due to the pandemic; and
- The rise in per capita alcohol use.
Unfortunately, among the 12 priority actions only one addresses alcohol.
Movendi International calls for a focus on domestic resource mobilization through alcohol taxation. It has a triple-win effect:
- reducing the mental health burden;
- protecting and promoting the health of children and youth; and
- raising domestic resources for mental health services and funding of Universal Health Coverage.
We call on the WHO Regional Office in Africa and governments to make alcohol taxation a priority in the efforts to improve mental health and well-being.
Modelling forecasts that global targets to reduce alcohol use and harm will not be met.
Overall, trends in alcohol consumption, alcohol’s contribution to the global burden of disease, and progress towards global targets are all increasing, putting more people and communities at risk of experiencing alcohol harm.
Alcohol remains one of the leading risk factors contributing to the global burden of disease. It is the eight leading preventable risk factor of disease. The contribution of alcohol to the global disease burden has been increasing from 2.6% of DALYs* in 1990 to 3.7% of DALYs in 2019.
In high income countries alcohol use is the second fasted growing risk factor and in LMICs – which affects the African region – alcohol is the fourth fastest rising risk factor for the global disease burden.
- Alcohol is the second largest risk factor for disease burden in the age group 10-24 years.
- Alcohol is the largest risk factor for disease burden in the group 25-49 years.
- Since Africa has such a youthful population, alcohol’s disproportionate and growing burden on young people is of grave concern.
- Without action, Africa could see an increase in both the absolute number and proportion of people consuming alcohol, the amount consumed per capita and heavy episodic alcohol use.
- Most countries, especially low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), have NOT implemented a comprehensive set of alcohol policies.
- No low-income country has reported increasing resources for implementing alcohol policy in the last decade.
- Many countries are failing to implement the alcohol policy best buy solutions, with LMICs more likely to have fewer evidence-based and cost-effective policies.
- 95% of reporting countries implement alcohol excise taxes.
- Few use such taxes as a public health policy to reduce consumption.
- Less than half use price strategies such as adjusting taxes to keep up with inflation and income levels, imposing minimum pricing policies, or banning selling below cost or volume discounts.
- Less than one-third of countries have regulations on outlet density and days of alcohol sale.
- Some countries, mainly LMICs in Africa, still have no legal minimum purchase age.
- Most countries have some policies on alcohol advertising.
- Alcohol marketing regulation continues to lag behind technological innovations and e-commerce, including rapidly developing new delivery systems.
- Most of the countries that reported no restrictions across all media types were located in the African or Americas regions.
How alcohol companies fuel harm and hinder sustainable development in Africa and what can be done about it
The African region is home to 16% of the world’s population. Out of this, only 5% are alcohol consumers. Culturally the people in this continent have mostly lived alcohol-free. But now Big Alcohol is manipulating the new cultural revolution in Africa to push more alcohol products on people, and create a demand for alcohol that does not exist, in the relentless push of ever more profits.
At the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board meeting in February 2020, Member States, called for accelerated action on alcohol as a public health priority. A decision was adopted by unanimous consent (EB 146), requesting the WHO and its director-general to develop an action plan (2022-2030) to effectively implement the WHOs Global Alcohol Strategy as a public health priority.
Since then, WHO has conducted an extensive consultation process lasting two years, to develop the global alcohol action plan to accelerate alcohol policy development and implementation as public health priority – an urgent need according to WHO Member States. The consultation process included global and regional engagements with Member States, one informal meeting and web-based consultation with civil society and academia, and – controversially – also the alcohol industry, despite their fundamental conflict of interest.