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President’s shock at Namibia’s levels of drink and drug abuse

Namibia’s president has called for urgent action on drink and drug abuse, saying he is “disturbed” by the country’s rate of alcohol and drug abuse.

Alcohol and drug abuse has been cited as the main contributing factor in most reported cases of gender-based violence and other forms of crime in the country,” said President: Hifikepunye Pohamba.

Speaking at the launch of the ‘Light a Candle for Namibia’ campaign, Mr  Pohamba said alcohol and drug abuse doesn’t just destroy the lives of abusers “but causes them to harm those very people they are supposed to protect: women and children.”

It is time we join hands as Government and civil society, especially the faith-based organisations, to intensify our efforts to fight against the abuse of women and children," he said.

Light a Candle for Namibia is a campaign for social and human dignity by Friendly Haven – a shelter for abused women and children.

President Pohamba said violence against women and children is a key priority for the south western African country’s government. “Our law enforcement and judicial institutions are hard at work to combat and discourage gender-based violence and other forms of crime through the enforcement of relevant laws aimed at the protection of life and human dignity as provided for in the Namibian Constitution,” The Namibian quoted him as saying.

The country's Health and Social Services Minister Richard Kamwi Kamwi told The Southern Times alcohol use takes a particular toll on the young, and has been linked to high rates of youthful criminal behaviour, injury, and impaired ability to achieve educational qualifications.

Forty-eight per cent of men and 26 per cent of women meet World Health Organisation’s criteria for hazardous and harmful drinking behaviour, showed a 2009 study of Namibian drinking habits. An earlier study, The Gender-Specific Drinking Habits fact sheet, said that those who drink do it to get drunk and that there is little evidence of responsible drinking among Namibians. It also had evidence of parents sometimes offering alcohol to small children as food.

Like its neighbours, Botswana, Angola and South Africa, Namibia is threatened by the HIV/Aids epidemic, which is estimated to affect 25 per cent of Namibians. When people are drunk, they are far more likely to have unprotected casual sex.

According to figures from the Aids charity, Avert, an estimated 22.4 million adults and children were living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2008. During that year, an estimated 1.4 million Africans died from AIDS. Around 14.1 million children have lost one or both parents to the epidemic, and in 2008 an estimated 1.8 million children were living with HIV.

Hayley attribution