04 Aug 2011 - Story by Francis Xoagub
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ONDANGWA â€" Preliminary findings on alcohol and drug abuse reveal that alcohol abuse is on the rise in the north, with medium and high-risk drinking more widespread among young people than elderly people.
This revelation came out at the opening of a four-day Namibia's Coalition on Responsible Drinking (CoRD) conference at Ongwediva this week.
Chief Medical Officer in the Oshana Health Directorate, Dr Josephine Augustinus, told New Era that alcohol abuse is a risk factor because it destroys family relationships, harm children's upbringing and cause violent crime, motor accidents and abnormal sexual behaviour.
"It is worrying to note that alcohol abuse in Namibia is on the increase, especially among the youth. Generally, drinking in this country is said to be on the increase and alcohol selling businesses are growing," she noted.
In 2004, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that there were about 2 billion people worldwide who consume alcohol and 76.3 million who may have diagnosable alcohol use problems.
Currently, 56 per cent of adult Namibians drink alcohol and 8 per cent suffer from alcohol-related illnesses.
"Most of our people who abuse alcohol think it is a way of enjoyment or luxury without knowing that it is a risk factor that can cause cancers and mental disorders. So our responsibility is to educate the public to make them aware about the dangers of alcohol abuse," she said.
According to Augustinus, drinking is a major factor for academic under-achievement and school dropout and leads to violent crimes like murder and rape.
In an effort to fight the scourge, CoRD launched a committee in the Khomas region recently which aims at ensuring greater awareness of alcohol abuse by the public.
Meanwhile, Programme Manager: Substance Abuse in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Rene Adams, says given the relative ease of access to liquor by under-18 year olds in Namibia and the rising prevalence of underage drinking, it is crucial that the country addresses the problem of youth alcohol consumption by strengthening Namibia's laws with regards to underage drinking.
"While it is unlikely to be helpful to create a large class of young offenders who are imprisoned or saddled with criminal records, there is a need for under-18 year olds to take responsibility for abstaining from alcohol consumption and from using fraud to obtain alcohol illegally. We would suggest that enforcement and prosecution should continue to focus on the sale and supply of liquor to underage persons rather than the consumption of liquor by underage persons," she said.
Martha /Khoeses from the CoRD Secretariat said the conference was aimed at training CoRD Committee members in the regions on substance abuse, the effect it has on individuals, families as well as at the work place, especially in the Oshana region.
The meeting was attended, among others, by representatives from line ministries, church organisations, traditional authorities, youth organisations, the business sector and non-governmental organisations.
The conference ends today.