Countries must do more to fight alcohol abuse: WHO

The World Health Organisation warned Friday that too few countries were taking steps to prevent alcohol abuse and raised alarm bells over major increases in alcohol consumption in Africa and Asia.

"Too few countries use effective policy options to prevent death, disease and injury from alcohol use," the UN health organisation said, saying that alcohol abuse contributes to 2.5 million deaths every year.

Since 1999, when the agency first began to sound its warning against alcohol abuse, 34 countries have introduced some policies to cut the harmful use of alcohol.

These include restrictions on alcohol marketing and drink driving, but "there are no clear trends on most preventive measures," noted the agency.

"Many countries have weak alcohol policies and prevention programmes," noted the WHO.

The UN agency said it was particularly worried about Africa and Southeast Asia, where consumption had shown "marked increases."

Data indicated that consumption of alcohol had remained relatively stable in the Americas and in the European, eastern Mediterranean and western Pacific regions.

But in Africa, the proportion of the population showing an increase in alcohol consumption between 2001 and 2005 reached 25.3 percent.

And in the Southeast Asia region, which in WHO definitions is made up of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste, that figure was 68.3 percent.

"Consumption and harmful intake is increasing in developing countries, particularly Africa and Asia which have less powerful regulations and which have less health service available," said Shekhar Saxena, WHO director of mental health and substance abuse.

"WHO is worried about these trends," he added.

In May last year, member states of the WHO approved a strategy against alcohol abuse, including a call for discounts on drinks to be banned and for advertising targetting the young to be scrapped.

The strategy drawn up by the UN health agency and approved by its 193-member states at an annual meeting of health ministers also pushes for an end to flat price rates for unlimited drinking and for sponsorship to be regulated.

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