Association tasks Nigerian Government on effective alcohol policy

Nnenna Okoronkwo, Abuja

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Association of Advocates against Alcohol Harm in Nigeria (ASAAHN) has called on the Nigerian Government to adopt an effective alcohol policy in the country to curtail harm caused by alcohol consumption.

The Association made the call during its official launch on the 18th of June 2020.

According to ASAAHN, “there is no alcohol policy in Nigeria regulating the production, advertisement, and regulation of alcohol consumption in Nigeria especially the regulation of locally brewed drinks”.

The Association also explained that 52.6% of Nigeria’s population consumes alcohol, adding that “the number of alcohol attributed deaths (AAD) for people above 15 years per 100,000 population shows that 42,120 Nigerians died from Liver cirrhosis, 15,365 died from road traffic accidents and a further 4,687 died from Cancers (WHO 2018)”.

The association also stated that “Globally, harmful alcohol consumption resulted in 3 million deaths and 132.6 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). Harmful alcohol use caused some 1.7million deaths from non-communicable diseases in 2016. An estimated 0.9 million injury deaths were attributed to alcohol. Africa bears the heaviest burden of disease injury attributed to Alcohol with an average per capita consumption of 6.1 liters (WHO Global status report 2018)”.

Barrister Eze Eluchie, the moderator of the launch and also a board member of ASAAHN noted that “excessive alcohol consumption, leads to a plethora of health challenges … including liver diseases, pancreatitis, cancer, ulcers immune system dysfunctions, brain damage, osteoporosis, heart diseases, and accidents. And when we look at our domestic environment, we see that the pricing of alcohol products makes it so available, it is somehow ingrained into our culture, some of our traditional rights have a specific brand of alcohol embedded into it. So what the Association of Advocates against Alcohol harm in Nigeria set out to do is to right these wrongs to ensure that we evoke domestic policies, domestic legislation, domestic practices to ensure that we cater for the health needs of our people,”

Eluchie added that Nigeria spends 208 billion on the same alcoholic beverages that causes all the damages he listed. “If this amount was put to better use, you can imagine the positive impact it would have in our society.”

He stated that the need for a policy framework on alcohol use cannot be overemphasised to ensure that alcohol harm is minimized in Nigeria.

Also speaking at the launch, Mr. Issah Ali, Head of Secretariat, West Africa Alcohol Policy Alliance, WAAPA, decried the fact that only two out of 15 West African States have a recent alcohol policy in place.

“Our focus as a civil society is to ensure that we increase the number of abstainers (from alcohol)  thereby reducing the number of alcohol consumers. Automatically, we will take away the market from the alcohol industry,” Mr. Ali said.

He called on all WAAPA members to ensure that they increase the number of abstainers and cripple the alcohol industry market.

Mr. Ali also congratulated ASAAHN and the government of Nigeria on the work done so far and called for more action to get a comprehensive policy in Nigeria.

The Programme Officer of WHO mental health office in Abuja, Dr. Benjamin Aiwonodagbon, congratulated the leadership of Advocates against Alcohol Harm in Nigeria for what he described as a landmark launch.

He added that “the role of civil society is crucial as they will collectively advocate for effective alcohol control, and at the same time they will monitor and report on activities of the alcohol industry and they will also help to galvanize actions among other issues.”

He also acknowledged the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health, for their “unrelenting support in putting in the necessary frameworks in place to reduce the harmful use of alcohol; this includes but is not limited to the 2019- 2025 NCD multi-sectoral action plan and the National Alcohol Policy which is currently under development.”

Dr. Aiwonodagbon also commended all stakeholders involved in moving the alcohol control agenda forward and urged them to keep up the good work by continuing their advocacy.

Similarly, the Minister of Health Dr. Ehanire Osagie who was represented by Dr. Nnenna Ezeigwe, National Coordinator NCDs said he is impressed by the resolve of the Association to unite against one of the foremost risks to public health.

The Minister added that “alcohol has been with humanity and has been widely used by many cultures for centuries; however, it is a psychotic substance with dependence for using properties. The harmful use is not only injurious to the user but also to the family members, friends, co-workers, and others with significant health, economic, and social burden on the society at large.

He noted that alcohol consumption is associated with the risk of developing over 200 diseases and injury conditions including mental disorders and non-communicable diseases.

The Minister said the burden of alcohol-related diseases and injuries is of great concern to the public health community.

He commended ASAAHN for taking the bold step and commitment towards reducing the burden of harmful use of alcohol charged the association to continue its advocacy in ensuring that alcohol policy is adopted in Nigeria.

The Minister promised to collaborate with the Association in providing enabling environment and technical assistance needed in the course of its advocacy.

“It is now my pleasure and honour to inaugurate the Association of Advocates against Alcohol harm in Nigeria (ASAAHN) to the glory of God and service to humanity, I congratulate all of you, God bless you all and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the Minister remarked.

Other speakers at the virtual launch of the Association include Prof Obot Isidore, Mrs. Amadi, of the Federal Ministry of Health, and Dr. Abanga from UNODC.

Lastly, Dr. Umenze Franklin, the Executive Director of ASAHHN gave a brief overview of ASAAHN explaining her objectives and the future direction of the association.

“We have over the years engaged the Federal ministry of health and the WHO Nigeria Office on the need for an alcohol policy to be drafted according to the WHO best buys and SAFER initiative.”

“In 2019, the first National alcohol policy meeting was held in Abuja with stakeholders from Nigeria in attendance together with staff from the Ministry of Health, WHO, and ASAAHN as the CSO representative,” he said.

 

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