Alex Mamwita (35) a resident of Tabata Darajani area in Dar es Salaam died recently and his relatives attributed the premature death to harmful use of alcohol…
“The young man was known all over the place as chapombe (meaning alcoholic)”, says Mwanaidi Saidi (72) a resident of the area.
The old woman said more than five years she had know the late young man, hardly he would be sober and worse, “often he would drink in an empty stomach”, she says.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) more than two percent of deaths occurring in Africa are attributing to harmful use of alcohol.
The organization defines harmful use of alcohol (HUA) as “pattern of drinking that causes or contributes to physical or psychological harm, including impaired judgment, or dysfunctional behavior which may lead to disability, or have adverse consequences for interpersonal relationship”.
Medical experts say that alcohol users have a 70 percent greater chance of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS compared to non users.
Notably, in East Africa some men and women start drinking home make hard drink ‘gongo’ early in the morning and go until they finish all the money they have with them in that day.
In urban areas there is a culture of going to bar with friends especially after work before going home. Bars are established in a number and in some areas especially in big cities like Dar es Salaam, bars are all over the place in residential areas.
Indeed, with this culture of making everywhere an alcohol drinking place, makes it difficult for drinking persons to be able to avoid harmful drinking.
“How can I avoid drinking while every second house in the area I live there is a “pombe” (alcohol) bar?” asked Simon Alfred (42), a father of three children living in Manzese Mburahati area, Kinondoni District, Dar es Salaam.
The law income man says few years ago, he shifted from Kurasini Shimolaudongo area, in Temeke District, Dar es Salaam to the area she lives now as a strategy to cut down drinking but only to discover that the two areas were almost similar.
“I moved from “gongo” prone area in Shimolaudongo only to find out that the illegal homemade distilled alcohol is plenty in Manzese”, said Alfred.
Alfred says “it is important for the government to come up with alcohol policy which can facilitate development activists to
formulate development programmes that can mobilize communities to hate harmful use of alcohol and take actions to stop it.
Making such grassroots oriented thoughts a reality in East African region, over the last two years , the IOGT-NTO Movement International Institute has been organizing Eastern Africa regional conference meant to bring together different stakeholders to strategize ways and means of ensuring that each country in the region designs and implements progressive alcohol policy.
This year too, the organization is set to organize the third regional conference to be held in the Tanzanian northern city of Arusha from September 24-25th, 2012.
The conference with a theme “Alcohol is a problem act now” will bring together 80 participants including the Swedish ambassador to Tanzania Dr Dr Lennrth Hjelmaker, health expert, activists and Members of Parliament from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda Burundi and Tanzania
The IOGT-NTO Movement International Institute regional representative, Gunnar Kraft says the conference will be officiated by Tanzanian Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hussein Mwinyi and will be closed by the Secretary General of the EAC, Dr Richard Sezibera.
The IOGT leader said international experts on alcohol from the five East African countries, Sweden and Malawi will make presentations to the meeting.
Kraft says main objective of the conference to enable participants share information and experiences on the impact of existing policies on alcohol within the East African Community (EAC) member countries.
However, it is worth to not that for the conference to add value in the struggle to reduce irresponsible alcohol drinking in the region, all participants invited to attend need to come prepared with information and case studies of best practices in combating the problem using effective policies.
Apparently alcohol is a booming business in East Africa attracting big foreign and local quick money venturing investors.
Therefore, it is critical now for all development concerned stakeholders and individuals men and women, young and old, from the urban and the rural areas in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to start doing something now to prevent the looming danger of many more young people dying from alcohol related factors.
Ananilea Nkya is Executive Director of the Tanzania Media Women Association (Tamwa)