By Shadrach Aziz Kamara
The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) Sierra Leone Alcohol Policy Alliance (SLAPA) has on Thursday 16th December 2021 concluded its consultative meeting with MDAs on the development of a National Alcohol Policy for Sierra Leone at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Aberdeen, in Freetown.
In a power point presentation, the Director of Non-communicable Disease and Mental Health in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation Dr. Santigie Sesay defined Alcohol as a clear liquid that has a strong smell that is used in some medicine and other products and that is the substance in liquors such as beers, wines, or whiskey can make a person drunk. He continued by stating thatthe consumption of alcohol is harmful to someone’s health. Alcohol leads to liver cirrhosis, some Cancer and cardiovascular diseases, adding that domestic violence, road accidents, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis andincident.
He further disclosed that according to WHO data in 2018 alcohol deaths in Sierra Leone reached 0.15 percent of total deaths and rank number thirty six in the world, adding that the alcohol industry is not new to Sierra Leone and it’s legally produced in the country. He went on to say that the traditional form “Omole” a sugar cane based locally spirit has been almost eliminated by competitive from foreign manufacturers, whilst talking on the policies and interventions, he said that eighteen years should be the minimum age on sales of alcohol beverages, adding that there should be no restrictions for on / off premise sales of alcoholic beverages. He continued that no national maximum legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) when driving a vehicle and there should be legal binding regulations on alcohol advertising.
He concluded by talking on the way forward and said that the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) has set up a multi sectorial alcohol control technical working group which is co-chaired by NCD and MH Directorate, SLAPA and FoRUT is the secretariat and said that the working group report quarterly to the Non-communicable Disease and Injury Commission that coordinates the development of a national alcohol policy, adding that the word “SAFER” is a new alcohol control initiative launched by WHO in September 2018 and also outlines five high-impact strategies that can help government to reduce the harmful use of alcohol and related health social and economic consequences.
Representative from SLAPA Alhassan Jalloh defined Alcohol abuse as the dependency of alcohol use and inability to control consumption, adding that drinking alcohol below the age of eight years is also misuse and alcohol addictive is a destruction and it has affected lots of people. He disclosed that as a country some efforts have been made on the regulations of alcohol by passing an acts which he said he believes that most of these acts is archaic like the Liquor acts 1924, the Palm wine acts 1927, Public order acts 1965, Road safety acts 2007 and the IMC code of conduct.
He furthered that through the National Alcohol Policies a document approved by the highest relevant authority with the aim to reduce harm from the use of alcohol, adding that the sum of policies decisions relating to alcohol traffic, gender, licensing, health and taxation. He continued by highlighting some of the reasons why there is a need for us to have alcohol policies and said that forevery ten seconds a person dies from alcohol related cases including heart disease, traffic clashes and violence. He reiterated that according to WHO in 2018 said more than three millions people dies as a result of harmful use of alcohol, adding that this represent one in twenty deaths and more than three quarter of these deaths were among men. He maintained that the threats to achieving quality education SDG four and Mid-term National Development plan cluster 1.1 and 1.2 wages are wasted on alcohol, adding that the household economy is ruined, and jobs are lost and alcohol sales outlets are around school premises. He went on to say that excessive alcohol use can lead to chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, various cancer, heart disease, stroke and liver disease Non-Communicable Disease, adding that fatal alcohol spectrums disorders and any alcohol use can harm a developing fetus resulting in physical, behavioural and learning problems later in life. He maintained that sexual risk behaviour which can result in unintended pregnancy such as HIV infection and other STIs.
All others representatives from WHO, FoRUT-SL, and MDAs made meaningful contributions.