The Sierra Leone Alcohol Policy Alliance (SLAPA) lobbied Members of Parliament (MPs) of relevant ministries for their active support for the development and implementation of multi-sectoral national alcohol policy that will reduce harm from alcohol. SLAPA reached over 30 MPs from Parliamentary Committees on Health and Sanitation, Internal Affairs, Social Welfare, Trade and Industries, Education and Finance at Parliament in Freetown. Honorable Abdulai Sesay, Chairperson Head and Sanitation Committee chaired the meeting. He reminded MPs that the effects of alcohol is not new, and knowing them is not enough, they needed to be active players in changing the dynamics of alcohol misuse.
Ibrahim Kamara, Chairperson SLAPA, made a presentation on the advocacy efforts made so far to influence alcohol control in the country, and the significant role MPs could play in the development of a policy and subsequent legislation. He outlined specific actions that MPs could take, and they included: influencing their respective ministries to put harm from alcohol on their agenda and approve the policy development process, being a champion against alcohol misuse, monitor implementation of existing policies and legislations relating to alcohol control such as drink-driving in the Road Traffic Act, and Sexual Offenses Act, Finance Act, and increase awareness on the harmful effects of alcohol in their constituencies.
MPs responded to SLAPA’s call to action in an open forum. Honorable Alhassan Kamara urged committee members should monitor alcohol producers in their various constituencies. Honorable Alhassan Kamara, Deputy Chairperson of the Health Committee commended urged his fellow MPs take ownership of the campaign. He admitted that MPs are at the forefront of giving alcohol to young people during political campaigns. He said, “this is a wakeup call for MPs to salvage their image.”
Honorable Navo Kaikai, speaking from both her medical and personal experiences, shared that she has seen firsthand the severe health consequences of alcohol including Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in babies, and has lost her brother due to excessive drinking. She made a commitment to serve as champion for alcohol control. Hon. Kaikai declared “Government is responsible of protecting the people, so MPs should not give alcohol to people during elections”
MPs present declared their support for the policy, and subsequent legislation on harm from alcohol in the country. Boi-Jeneh Jalloh, Executive Director of FoRUT and Head of SLAPA Secretariat expressed appreciation for the unanimous support that the leadership of all the relevant parliamentary committees have pledged to the process. She promised that SLAPA will involve a number of them as champions in its subsequent campaigns.