CSOs call for implementation of National Alcohol Policy (NAP) in Malawi
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Malawi have demanded the implementation of the National Alcohol Policy (NAP) passed in 2018.
MALAWI: Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Malawi have demanded the implementation of the National Alcohol Policy (NAP) passed in 2018.
The demand, made on 30 November 2021 in Lilongwe during an inception meeting of the Southern Africa Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) Malawi chapter, comes following the lack of political will to implement the policy.
The chairperson for SAAPA, Philip Chimphonda graced the meeting where CSOs made commitments to start the registration process for SAAPA Malawi chapter.
SAAPA is a collaboration of CSOs across Southern African countries that aims to promote the harmonization and acceleration of evidence-based alcohol policy development and implementation in the region.
Malawi is the first country in Southern Africa to enact the National Alcohol Policy in 2018. Every Malawi’s street is a haven for cheaper unregulated alcohol.
Alcohol is linked to the emergence of other psychosocial problems.
According to Dr. Ndumanene Silungwe, a clinical psychologist at St John of God Hospitaller Services in Malawi, it is costly cleaning up the mess of alcohol and drug abuse. He said it is important for Malawi to seriously implement the National Alcohol Policy.
St John of God actively participated in the development of the National Alcohol Policy and plans to advocate for its rollout and implementation.
Country Director for Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and DanChurchAid (DCA) in Malawi, Havard Hovdhaugen, said Malawi is seating on a timebomb and he wished nothing from the meeting but the creation of the SAAPA Malawi chapter.
“As NCA/DCA we have gathered like-minded CSOs and other key stakeholders to create a forum and chapter of SAAPA in the country to have a stronger and conceited voice on matters to do with the implementation of the well-drafted National Alcohol Policy but is not being implemented. That is why we gathered like-minded organizations to strengthen our advocacy work,” said Hovdhaugen.
The SAAPA chairperson said NAP has stalled; there has been little progress towards implementation of the NAP in Malawi.
“In my understanding when a country passes a policy, it comes with an implementation plan and budget. The Malawi situation shows that there is no progress in the implementation of the policy. This calls for political will, leadership, and commitment,” said Chimphonda.
He said CSOs need to work together jointly and boldly to push the government to implement NAP as the issue is highly politicized. He advised that government should work with technocrats to see viable means of implementing the policy.
Chimphonda complained that it is against WHOs recommendation to have alcohol widely advertised, cheaply sold, and readily available to children. Malawi Government reduced the price of alcohol in this year’s budget.
‘We expect a unified CSO voice that would help make the government realize the harms associated with unhealthy consumption of alcohol and that they cannot be offset by the benefits from alcohol even though government collects enormous revenue from alcohol,” he said.
He called upon CSOs to advocate evidence-based interventions in dealing with the policy, treatment, and rehabilitation of people affected by alcohol and drugs.
Among other mitigations, SAAPA advocates for alcohol levy. The funds could be used in rehabilitating people affected by alcohol or addressing the damage caused by alcohol.
Executive Director for Youth Wave, John Bright Nyirenda, said SAAPA resonates well with his organization and they have great interest in the adoption of its goal.
Nyirenda said he will take unified voices from CSOs as an opportunity to deal with the rising cases of alcohol and drug abuse among young people. He said the availability of cheaper alcohol creates a worrisome situation in the country.
“This should also be taken as an emergency and given the attention, it deserves just the way we have responded to COVID-19,” he said.
According to WHO estimates, 1 in every 4 people have mental health problems, and similar estimates are reported in Primary Health Care in Malawi (20% - 28%) with Common Mental Health Disorders (CMDS) such as anxiety, depression. Substance Use Disorders make the greater mental health burden.
With funding from FORUT, NCA/DCA coordinates local partners and stakeholders to seriously address the growing problem of alcohol and drug abuse among the youth in Malawi.