Leading global health rights movements have called upon the World Health Organization (WHO) to stop engaging with alcohol companies and their lobbyists, arguing repeated efforts by alcohol producers to undermine public health reforms are contributing to the rising number of premature deaths of productive people around the world.
The movements have also asked WHO not to give alcohol companies and their lobbyists a seat at the table where policy and programs to progress community health, wellbeing and safety is being developed, assessed or evaluated.
The call is contained in a joint letter from a grouping of 106 community and public health leaders from 60 countries, including Malawi.
In Malawi, the letter has been endorsed and signed by Women’s Coalition Against Cancer (WOCACA) Executive Director Maud Mwakasungula.
Mwakasungula confirmed endorsing the letter, which has been addressed to WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, asking him to stop giving a space to alcohol producers and their lobbyists at the ongoing 76th World Health Assembly.
The assembly is taking place in Geneva.
Mwakasungula said they fear that giving alcohol producers and their lobbyists a space at the assembly would allow companies that profit from alcoholic products to have unprecedented access to leaders who are responsible for advancing global health.
“As leaders from organisations representing public health, community, family violence, children’s rights and first nations groups, we are very concerned with the rising numbers of people dying from alcohol-related causes. That’s why we have called upon WHO not to give alcohol companies a seat at the table where policy and programs to progress community health, wellbeing and safety are being developed, assessed or evaluated. The health, wellbeing and safety of our families and communities is far too important,” she said.
Mwakasungula added that it is high time the world joined hands to stop the harm of alcohol and all countries have the role to save lives from alcohol harm.
In her remarks, President of Movendi International, Kristina Sperkova, said preventing and reducing alcohol harm was crucial for the WHO to achieve its aim of giving every person an equal chance at a safe and healthy life.
“Alcohol companies and their lobby groups work relentlessly to undermine common sense measures to improve the health and safety of people across the globe. They should not be given unprecedented access to the very people who are responsible for advancing global health,” Sperkova said, adding that alcohol kills three million people a year globally, representing five percent of all deaths.
“Among young adults aged 20 to 39 years, one in seven deaths are a result of alcohol. Every effort should be made to prevent this harm.”
National Coordinator for Drug policy and Harm Reduction Platform (DPHRP), Wilson Mwale said.
Mwale urged the alcoholic drinks industry to step up its fight against the growing problem of alcohol abuse and further push ahead with measures on banning sponsorship and advertising, warning labels and minimum drinking age.
Latest reports indicate that in Mexico alone, alcohol companies take millions of litres of water from drought ravaged communities to produce their beer, forcing communities to protest for the basic human right to access water.
In Australia, the largest alcohol retailer fought for five years while they tried to build one of the biggest bottleshops in the country near a dry Aboriginal community in an area with high levels of alcohol harm, forcing the community to fight back.
In Ireland, alcohol companies have lobbied at every step to undermine the Public Health Alcohol Action Act, watering down its impact and delaying many measures.
In many African countries, multinational alcohol companies are deploying unethical practices to drive alcohol use, including using “beer promotion girls” and aggressive marketing that exposes children to alcohol promotions.