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WHO Afro and FORUT: Cooperation agreement signed
WHO Regional Office for Africa and FORUT have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote evidence-based alcohol policies in Africa. The new agreement defines areas of cooperation between the two parties.
The first aim in the MoU is to promote follow-up in African countries of the Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol and the corresponding strategy for the African WHO region. Further aims are documentation of the alcohol situation in Africa, training of NGO leaders and government staff and technical support to policy development are other areas of priority. Furthermore, the MoU states that alcohol prevention strategies will be linked to key development challenges in Africa, eg. the prevention of HIV/AIDS, promotion of gender equality and removal of harmful gender roles and the eradication of poverty.
- It is critical to develop and implement more effective alcohol policies in many African countries, comments Morten Lønstad, Secretary General of FORUT (picture left). - This is underlined by the new 2010 figures for the Global Burden of Diseas. These figures suggest that alcohol is number one risk factor for death and disability in Southern Sub-Saharan Africa. In order to change this situation, international NGOs and inter-governmental institutions must collaborate in supporting policy development in Africa countries.
Secretary General Lønstad makes reference to the efforts by the multinational alcohol corporations which have set eyes on Africa. - Governments and the people of Sub-Saharan countries are under pressure from vested interests. We know that governments are being lobbied to refrain from introducing evidence-based policies, and substantial resources are used to convince young Africans to drink more, particularly beer.
The WHO AFRO/FORUT collaboration has developed over the last years, and the newly signed MoU will serve as a formal foundation for collaboration in the future. The aim is “to promote development, welfare, safety and health for the peoples of the continent”. As projects and programs for collaboration are developed, the parties will sign specific letters of agreement outlining the terms and expectations of those individual initiatives. At present WHO AFRO and FORUT are working together to document the alcohol policy development process in Malawi and a second phase of the project Monitoring of Alcohol Marketing Practices in Africa (MAMPA).
The Regional Office for Africa covers 46 member states of The World Health Organization, which means most of the African continent, excluding seven countries in the North-Eastern part of Africa. FORUT is a Norwegian development NGO with Alcohol, Drugs and Development as a special area of competence. At present FORUT has alcohol prevention activities in the following African countries: Malawi, Zambia and Sierra Leone. FORUT also supports, financially and technically, the development of a regional alcohol policy network for NGOs in Southern Africa (SAAPA).