Harare – A new study under the auspices of the World Health Organisation says youths in Southern Africa consume more alcohol than their peers in the rest of the continent.
The study by Florence Baingana and Chidinma Opoko establishes that 15 to 19-year-olds in SADC drink hardest, with young people in Zambia accounting for the highest number of underage imbibers.
Forty three percent of adolescents between the age of 13 and 15 in Zambia consume alcohol, followed by Benin at 39.3 percent, Namibia at 23.5 and Botswana at 20.6.
Zimbabwe leads in the heavy episodic drinking among 15 to 19-year-olds.
Heavy episodic drinking is when the proportion of drinkers above the age of 15 consume at least 60 grammes of pure alcohol on at least one occasion every 30 days. Sixty grams of pure alcohol corresponds approximately to six standard alcoholic drinks.
Zimbabwe has 70.7 males per 1,000 within the age group admitting to heavy episodic drinking, while 40.1 per 1,000 women were also recorded under this grim statistic.
Following Zimbabwe in this regard is Zambia (64.1 for males and 32.9 for females).
Such statistics point to the existence of a big alcohol problem in Southern Africa.
The Baingana-Opoko paper urges authorities to implement policies that ensure children cannot buy alcohol whether physically or online.
Speaking to The Southern Times, Mr Tungamirai Zimondi, the executive director of Youth against Alcoholism and Drug Dependency in Zimbabwe, said there was need for a collective approach in the region to contain the situation before it go out of hand.
“There is a deliberate attempt by the global alcohol industry to expand into Africa since there are weak regulations as compared to the Western world and the young population is attractive to them for their long term profit goals,” said Mr Zimondi.
Calls have been increasing for Africa –including SADC- to revise and harmonise alcohol restrictions.
Article 6 of the SADC Protocol on Finance and Investment requires member states to collectively explore areas of possible co-ordination for policy formulation and administration in respect of taxes on tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, among other items.