Saturday, April 26, 2014

Zambia's problems with alcohol abuse

Zambian's the world biggest drinkers

WHO evidence shows that Zambian women are the biggest consumers of alcohol in the world. The horrible reality is that alcohol destroys lives in Zambia. 

The survey shows that Zambia as a nation has the worst problem with alcohol that any other country in the world with men and women consuming enormous amounts of alcohol. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the statistics presented by the World Health Organization is that the problem is worst among Zambian women with the evidence suggesting that 42% of Zambian women drink to excess at least once a week. The statistics unfortunately do not lie as wherever and whenever one travels in Zambia one will witness drunkenness. The statistics only partly reflect the reality as well as it is commonplace to see men, women and children drunk to an extreme one might consider impossible at all times of day and night. I have seen elderly women barely able to walk due to intoxication in the middle of an afternoon and have witnessed teenage girls taking drinks from much older men in bars across Zambia. Many teenage girls fall into dependency upon alcohol and often will take drinks from men in return for sex. Alcohol abuse in Zambia is explicitly linked to prostitution and subsequently to the spread of HIV/Aids, teenage pregnancy and other associated social evils. The situation is out of control across the country.

The situation isn't confined to cities either - alcoholism extends into the compounds and villages. Cheap alcohol is readily available across the country. Some is sold legally in shops where other brews are made in homes and sold to unlicensed shebeens for sale within communities. One can buy alcohol at any time of day or night from markets that trade all night. Although such trade is illegal the law is not enforced by the authorities.

The problem permeates across the whole of society but as always those who suffer most are those living in poverty and tragically the biggest victims are often children. The most tragic aspect which the statistics do not reflect is the level of drunkenness and alcoholism among children. It is no wonder children turn to alcohol. After all what sort of example are they set by their parents, uncles and aunts and even grandparents? One of the busiest nights of the year in Zambia is when Grade 12 children complete their exams. Children flood into bars and nightclubs and often subsequently in to a life dominated by alcohol abuse.

 I only hope that the Zambian government is now stirred into action and legislates to reduce access to alcohol in the country. President Ian Khama in Botswana adopted hardline measures to reduce alcohol abuse in his country and I would suggest it's time that President Sata adopted similar measures to his neighbours. The banning of “Tujili jili” in 2012 showed the political will to address the issue of alcoholism in the nation but unfortunately little has happened since and traders have now circumnavigated the legislation but repackaging cheap alcohol for sale to the Zambian public.


Karen de simone said...

I feel that the use of the words "drunkard" is not helpful when addressing this very serious issue. The title of the blog implies the issue of "alcohol abuse" however in the first few sentences label people in a negative way. Telling some one they are a drunkard only provokes more denial and even less sympathy from people who more able to control their drinking habits. Alcoholism is a serious issues that does need to be tackled and I agree with you that the government needs to take a lead on this however I also propose that adults in Zambians and beyond need to take a long hard look at ourselves. From parents to teachers to preachers we need educating on the effects of alcohol and we also need avenues of ending 'alcohol misuse' through targeted campaigns through schools and the media. Remove the moralizing around alcohol misuse and see it for what it is; an addiction.

Karen de simone said...

Alcohol abuse I figure is an inaccurate term. I would term it as 'alcohol misuse'. Many people are capable of drinking sensibly and manage their drinking appropriately. However a great deal of Zambians choose to misuse alcohol to shocking levels. I agree with you Adrian on the point that there is a problem with alcohol consumption among many Zambians. However I don't agree with the terms used such as 'drunkards'as it only reinforces negative labeling around the issues of misuse of alcohol.Instead we all need to understand that drinking excessively is not only injurious to health but it has a catalytic effect on society. From the father who drives home drunk (drink driving)and crashes his car.He arrives home and beats his wife and children (domestic violence). The next day he is not able to go to work(no transport)at which point he may lose his job (unemployment) the family has no money to pay the rent or school fees( homelessness and illiteracy). This I know is a highly exaggerated tale however I wonder if we spell it out in such a stark manner(Us African's love a story)to school age children then we can change how our children think and thus producing a generation of teens and adults that have the awareness to understand how the misuse of alcohol can impact on their future. I do not think abstinence from alcohol is the right answer as alcohol and the love of alcohol whilst socializing is deeply ebbed in our society nevertheless targeted awareness programs along with government policy are the way forward in my view. said...

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Adrian Scarlett said...

Thanks for the comments. I take on board your point about my use of the word "Drunkards" I used this term given its significance in Zambia's history of tackling alcohol misuse. Kenneth Kaunda once famously threatened to resign as President on the grounds that "Zambia is a nation of drunkards." The statistics reinforce the fact that Zambia has a huge issue with alcohol misuse and reinforce what I observed when living in the country. It is a problem that permeates across social groups and gender. One can observe highly intoxicated people at all times of day.