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Lesotho: Training session held on evidence-based alcohol policies

“Prevention of alcohol problems is a leadership issue for the whole nation. The issue must be brought to the top of our political agenda”, says Lesotho’s Honourable Minister of Tourism, M. Ramaili (picture left). Lesotho’s alcohol policy will now be revised.

In her closing address to an alcohol policy training course in Maseru Ms Ramaili made reference to the current situation of Lesotho: “Alcohol is readily available anywhere in this country, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is an essential part of all celebrations; births, traditional festivals, funerals, sports event. There will be very few attendants at such events if you do not serve alcohol. Alcohol consumption is a complex issue. It brings economic benefits, but these benefits come at very high costs. Even if alcohol is a legal commodity the sale of this product cannot go unchecked”, said the Minister of Tourism.

The training session on evidence-based alcohol policies, which was held in the end of March, was part of a process to revise and improve the existing alcohol policy of Lesotho. Around 30 participants from government agencies and NGOs took part in a three-day program based on the book “Alcohol No Ordinary Commodity”. By their commitment, their competence and by active participation the participants contributed towards a successful training with a high level of energy.

Honourable Minister Ramaili said that the Government wanted this training to be held as soon as possible: “We have the commitment to improve the alcohol policy of our country and need the best available documentation to do this. This training is the first step our process; a first step in the right direction.” She said that the next step will be the work of a committee of 8-9 persons, many of them present at the training session. Recommendations from this committee will then be handled by the National Alcohol Council, the Ministry of Tourism and the government.

Ms Ramaili made reference to the existing National Alcohol Policy from 2007: “This policy has many shortcomings and gaps. Alcohol is not linked to major development challenges of our country, like poverty and HIV/AIDS. It lacks a public health approach in order to be effective. And it does not address a number of critical issue; like regulation of alcohol marketing”. She stressed that good plans and policies are not enough in itself. Talking will not solve the problem. Implementation is the key to effective prevention of alcohol problems.

The training session was chaired by Ms Mpai Ts’eole, Director of Tourism (picture left). Dr. Neo Morojele from the Medical Research Council of South Africa and Dag Endal from FORUT, a Norwegian development NGO, served as international experts and trainers, while Blue Cross were technical organizers together with the host ministry.

The alcohol policy training session in Lesotho is the fifth of its kind. Previous trainings have been held in Malawi, Botswana, Namibia and Tchad, organized by Blue Cross Norway, International Federation of Blue Cross and FORUT Norway. Experiences from these trainings will be used to produce a training package on evidence-based alcohol policies which can be used by NGOs and governments

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