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Officials Worried By Rising Alcoholism

Panafrican News Agency (Dakar), 3 March 2001

Nairobi, Kenya - Kenyan authorities and social NGOs have expressed concern over the rising cases of alcohol abuse in the East African country.

According to a research by the Kenya Medical Research Institute alcohol abuse affects 70 percent of families in Kenya.

To combat the unbecoming trend, the government plans to establish a task force charged with the formulation of a comprehensive alcohol policy in the country.

Speaking during the launch of the Geneva Partnership on Alcohol Towards a Global Charter in Nairobi on Friday, the minister for public health, Prof. Sam Ongeri, said that all stakeholders, including consumers, would be included in the task force.

Ongeri said the task force would examine legal and ethical issues concerning licensing of alcohol beverage outlets, advertising and quality control.

It would also examine consumer education, alcohol packaging, access and availability as well as establishment of research and reference facilities.

The Geneva Partnership on Alcohol underscores the important roles that the alcohol industry, end users as well as interested parties could play in regulating alcohol production and consumption.

Ongeri said alcohol has became an important public health problem in Kenya arising from over consumption, intoxication and dangerous behaviour upon consumption of alcohol.

Last November over 140 people died and scores of others lost their eye sight in Kenya after consuming an illegal ethanol-laced alcoholic drink.

Ongeri said it was important to distinguish between responsible social drinking and irresponsible consumption of alcohol, which leads to intoxication and dangerous behaviour such as indulgence in casual sex.

He stressed the need to control alcohol abuse through vigorous programmes of prevention, information and education.

The minister said that although the alcohol beverage industry contributes Ksh 12 billion (about 153 million US dollars) to the economy, most of it is spent to treat people with alcohol abuse related ailments.

He advocated the need to balance the economic and social factors.

According to Ongeri, alcohol consumption by the underage has contributed immensely to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Kenya, which is currently estimated at 14 percent.

The minister said the government would soon issue a statement to be aired and displayed in all social places frequented by the youths so as to enhance behaviour change in the advent of HIV/Aids.

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