By Wezi Tjaronda
The problem of alcohol abuse among the youth has become so severe that authorities want tougher laws concerning the sale of alcohol to under-eighteens, as well as increased taxation.
Recommendations included in UNICEF’s paper entitled “A Future in Doubt: Youth Alcohol Abuse in Namibia” say suppliers of alcohol to children under 18 years should be arrested and prosecuted.
The ease with which alcohol is obtainable in Namibia, although shops are prohibited from selling it on Saturday afternoons until Monday morning, and public holidays, encourages underage drinking, said the paper, which was released on Friday.
The paper said access to alcohol by young people could be restricted by restricting outlets, particularly illegal shebeens, as well as by arresting and prosecuting people and establishments found to be selling liquor and home brewed drinks to under-eighteens.
According to recent studies, the average age of starting to drink alcohol in Namibia is 10 years. It has also been found that 32 percent of 10 to 14-year-olds received their first alcohol from their parents or guardians.
An average Namibian consumes up to 10 litres of alcohol a week, which is the equivalent of 33 dumpies of beer – heavy drinkers take 78 beers. Types of alcohol consumed include beer, cheap wine, brandy, gin, vodka and home brewed beer which is the most popular drink that accounts for 67 percent of national consumption and 73 percent of all female consumption.
In addition to these, the paper said, alcoholic porridges, soups and illegally distilled liquor are widely consumed even though they are sometimes spiked with animal body parts, tobacco, battery acid and paint thinner to increase the potency, with fatal consequences.
What is recommended is an increase in liquor taxation to serve as a deterrent.
The paper suggested that the proliferation of liquor advertising such as bill boards, TV, radio, posters, promotions and competitions should be countered by involving celebrities and pubic figures whom the youth admire as advocates of responsible drinking.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) and its partners initiated the Coalition on Responsible Drinking (CORD), which the paper said should be strengthened to expand its work in the fields of prevention, legislation enforcement and treatment.
MOHSS Under Secretary Peter Ndaitwa released the report.
Ironically, the paper was released the very day the Convention on the Rights of the Child was celebrated.
Ndaitwa said alcohol abuse among young people was a concern because of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is underpinned by alcohol abuse.
Reports say Namibians have the most dangerous drinking habits in the world. Ndaitwa said it was more worrisome to note that the same parents who have the responsibility to protect the children were the same ones giving alcohol to the children.
Alcohol abuse and it effects on families are at the centre of under-development in Africa and Namibia, added Ndaitwa.
Rapes on children and women, brutal murders and assaults on women in their homes and having sex without condoms, which can result in HIV infections, were all fuelled by alcohol abuse.