Malawi to restrict alcohol consumption: Journalists persuaded to report on abuses

Drug Fight Malawi (DFM) and the Malawi Alcohol Policy Alliance (MAPA) have beckoned Malawian journalists to intensify their reporting on alcohol abuse and its harmful effects which deter the country’s socio- economic development.

The beckoning dominated a media training workshop in Lilongwe on Thursday which the two organisations organised to orient journalists on how best to report on harmful consumption of alcohol and its related issues.

A 2009 survey by the World Health Organization on Non Communicable Diseases, or NCDs, and its risk factors shows that 20 percent of all Malawians consume alcohol.

The study indicates that one in five men and one in 50 women drink excessively. Overall, the survey shows that about eight percent of all people of all drinkers consume too much.

Beer party: Call to avoid binge drinking
Beer party: Call to avoid binge drinking

In their speeches and presentations, representatives of DFM, MAPA, Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO)- Malawi Office- implored the media practitioners to help government and other concerned stakeholders to disseminate accurate information to the public on the dangers of alcohol abuse.

“First of all we are Malawians before becoming media people as such we all have a responsibility of contributing towards the socio economic development of our nation.

“We have invited you to this meeting so that we share this information that would enable fair reporting, so let us get across proper information to the general public,” prodded Maria Chidzanja-Nkhoma, DFM/MAPA Board Chairperson when she opened the one-day workshop.

The veteran broadcaster reminded the journalists that health and related problems created by alcohol abuse are additional burden for most poor Malawians as they generate substantial problems and become stumbling blocks for development.

Thus, the board chairperson said addressing harmful use of alcohol was critical to resolving issues of many problems affecting the society.

Chidzanja-Nkhoma, a Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) broadcaster, also noted that the disproportionate level of harm to young people caused by alcohol use has serious implications for human capital development.

Quoting Cook and Moore 1993, she said “multiple studies have found that youthful alcohol use reduces educational aspiration and achievement.”

Drug Fight Malawi Executive Director, Nelson Baziwelo Zakeyu, said harmful use of alcohol was a major risk factor to health and development, both through alcohol’s impact on NCDs and through its role in injuries, mental health and other health problems.

“Furthermore, alcohol has considerable negative social-economic impact, through violence, gender-based violence, the drain on meager family and other resources caused by heavy drinking, and the threat to human capital development posed by youthful initiation of alcohol use,” said Zakeyu who is also secretary general of MAPA.

Over 40 journalists drawn from both print and electronic media across the country and including some who correspond for foreign media took part in the training.

Among others, the media personnel had an opportunity to be briefed on the 2013 plan for DFM and MAPA which, among other things, seek to see a total ban of alcohol sachets and the adoption of the National Alcohol Policy which s currently with the Ministry of Health for technical scrutiny.

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