- African countries have been urged to do all they could to curb the harmful use of alcohol, a practice that poses a serious threat to human health and development efforts in the region.
In a report to the annual meeting of health ministers from 46 countries in the Cameroonian capital Yaoundé, the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo, proposed a ten-point action plan to curb the harmful consumption of alcohol. These included regulating availability, restricting sale, increasing taxes and prices as well as raising political commitment.
Dr. Sambos said in 2000 and 2002, estimates of total deaths in the region due to harmful use of alcohol noted a significant burden of 2.1% and 2.2%, respectively. Globally, harmful use of alcohol was responsible for 4% of the burden of disease and 3.2% of all deaths in 2000.
The report also raised alarm on increases in alcohol consumption and changes in drinking patterns among adolescents and the narrowing gap between men and women drinkers.
It was also concerned about the rising health and social cost of harmful alcohol use both to the individual consumer and to society. These offshoots include unemployment, crime and violence, especially against women and increased admission to health care facilities.
Intoxication and chronic effects of alcohol could result to permanent health damage, neuropsychiatric disorders, traumatic injury, high-risk sexual behaviour and even death.
Both home-brewed and industrial beverages are consumed together in African countries.
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