By Wezi Tjaronda
An Australian government policy advisor has expressed concern over the large number of underage alcohol consumers in Namibia.
Addressing a workshop to discuss the draft demand reduction policy on alcohol use and misuse in Namibia, Dr Keith Evans said although the youth might not drink a lot, they were too young to drink.
“Why are there so many 10-year-olds drinking?” he wondered.
He said this showed that “someone has lost control of these young people”.
Underage drinking is one of the many models of drinking that cause harm to people. The others include social disorders, violence and risks of sexual activity in the face of HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted infections.
Findings of a study by the John Hopkins University support a UNICEF Knowledge Attitudes Practice and Behaviour study of 2006, which found that one in every 10 out of a sample population of 10 to 14-year-olds had already taken alcohol at some point with the starting age being 10 years.
Interestingly, 32 percent of the 10 to 14-year-olds in the UNICEF study took alcohol from their own parents and guardians, while more than half were exposed to drunken behaviour in their homes.
Evans said oftentimes children observed their parents or guardians drink.
Unfortunately, he noted that parents would tell their children that alcohol was bad for them (children) while they (parents) drink. It has also been observed that children with parents that drink also drink regularly.
“We have to change what surrounds the culture,” he said.
The problem associated with this type of behaviour is that the younger the children start drinking, the more problems they develop in future.
The UNICEF study found that the youth had problems with the police, they fought, suffered personal injuries, were violent and were involved in careless sex and exposed themselves to risky sexual encounters.
“Drinking increases the probability of HIV risk behaviour by a factor of 3.53,” the study said. Health and Social Services Minister, Dr Richard Kamwi, urged parents to be exemplary to their children by drinking responsibly.
Parents, he said, carry the responsibility of ensuring that their children are well-informed about the damaging effects of alcohol abuse.
“Parents have to set the example in this regard by not abusing alcohol, but being responsible and moderate consumers of alcohol,” he said.