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Zambia: An alcohol policy alliance in the making?
Zambia needs a stronger NGO voice to promote public health concerns in alcohol policy formulation. This was one of the conclusions in a meeting for civil society organizations in Lusaka on the 10th of June.
In his presentation at the meeting Dr John Mayaya from the Ministry of Health (picture to the right) stressed the important role of NGOs in alcohol policy discussions. He said that governments need NGOs both as watchdogs, as strong voices for public health interests and as partners in mobilizing stakeholders.
The initiative to the meeting in Lusaka, which took place at the office of Norwegian Church Aid, was taken by FORUT, a Norwegian development NGO specialized in alcohol and drug prevention. Zambia is chosen as a new partner country to FORUT’s ADD Program; Alcohol, Drugs and Development. This program links alcohol prevention to other mainstream development issues; poverty reduction, prevention of HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence etc.
Such links were appreciated by many of the NGOs present at the meeting, as many of them are NGOs with a broad development agenda. The group of participants included, among others, the following organizations: The Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council, a national network with more than hundred member organizations, YMCA, The Girl Guides Association of Zambia, The Norwegian Church Aid and The Pioneers Total Abstinence Association. The call for a meeting on NGO involvement in alcohol prevention and policies was welcomed by the participants. They had not before experienced to be in a setting where they met other NGOs with interest in alcohol prevention. This created a very enthusiastic and positive atmosphere at the meeting.
Many of the participants expressed that the meeting and the material presented had been an eye-opener. The was a common concern in the meeting how the cooperation among NGOs could be developed further and how alcohol prevention could be linked to mainstream development issues in Zambia (HIV/AIDS, gender, poverty etc). The group also discussed to form a national alcohol policy alliance somewhere down the line, in order to strengthen the NGOs voices.