The harmful use of alcohol challenges the social and economic development of many countries, including those of Africa. Alcohol consumption in Africa is approximately 40% higher than the global average.

Overall, people in Africa consume alcohol in a pattern that is hazardous to health. This type of risky consumption is associated with various health and social harms, including over 200 conditions (noncommunicable diseases, mental disorders, injuries, and HIV) as well as domestic violence, lost productivity, and many hidden costs. Harmful alcohol consumption is the leading risk factor for deaths in males aged 15-49 years, yet evidence shows that women are more vulnerable to alcohol-related harm. People of low socioeconomic status are more vulnerable to the negative consequences of harmful consumption. AHO strives to aid in the formulation of public health policies and interventions to reduce the harmful use of alcohol based on clear public health goals, existing effective practices, and best-available knowledge. We work with countries to develop and implement strategies that will monitor alcohol-related problems, collaborate with countries in the development and implementation of effective policies, and promote research.

Africa is faced with a growing burden of harmful alcohol consumption and its disastrous effects. There is no other consumer product as widely available as alcohol that accounts for as much premature death and disability.

There are two main characteristics that describe alcohol consumption patterns in the Region: a high level of alcohol abstention in some countries and high volume consumption with severe health and social consequences in others.

Alcohol use has immediate and long-term effects that increase the risks associated with numerous health conditions. Alcohol is a leading cause of risky sexual behaviours such as unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, and produces an increased risk of sexual assault. These behaviours can result in unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and HIV.

In the Region, HPV is a significant threat and is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Alcohol is also known to increase cancer of the liver, breast, colon, oesophagus, throat and mouth.

Heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure – all significant health conditions in Africa – can develop from the harmful use of alcohol. Alcoholic hepatitis and scarring of the liver are also devastating outcomes of alcohol use.