Globally, the harmful use of alcohol causes approximately 3.3 million deaths every year. This is greater than, for example, the proportion of deaths from HIV/AIDS with 2.8%. Worldwide, and specifically in Africa, substance abuse represents an obstacle to development. There is now extended proof of the causal relationship between alcohol consumption and the incidence and clinical outcomes of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and pneumonia. Beyond these health consequences, the harmful use of alcohol inflicts significant social and economic losses on individuals and society at large (WHO 2014).
The growing alcohol consumption in Africa and the early age of onset make the introduction of effective prevention programs in schools particularly important. In the field of addiction prevention, such programs are non-existent in many countries. In Congo, one of the most urbanized countries in Africa, alcohol consumption and drugs abuse is growing and reaching alarming levels among young people. According to a Blue Cross Congo survey, 54% of young people aged 15 years old consume alcohol on regular basis, and it principally affects disadvantaged young men living in the peripheral suburbs.
The Life Skills and Peer Education project in Brazzaville is a holistic prevention program for disadvantaged youth that promotes behavior change through peer education and the development of essential life skills. Peer education is based on role modeling and the ability of young people to become leaders and agents of change through empowerment and support. These peer leaders are trained and coached to nurture the development of social and interpersonal competencies such as the ability to communicate, take informed decisions, gain increased self-esteem, cope with pro¬blems in a healthy, non-violent manner and resolve conflicts. These competencies are called life skills. While this approach has proven successful in creating behavior change in the prevention of HIV/AIDS, the International Blue Cross is now pioneering it in the field of alcohol and drugs.
In addition to the life skills lessons taught in public high schools, our local partner, ASUdh, also carries out awareness campaigns about the dangers associated with alcohol and drug use at recreational facilities, churches and within the community. An additional focus of this project is on the implementation of alcohol policy measures – especially in the field of youth protection – through targeted community action involving local leaders, teachers and parents.
The overall objective of this prevention project is health promotion as well as substance abuse and violence prevention among young people aged 14-18 years in the capital city of Brazzaville. Reducing substance abuse among youth decreases violence and the spread of disease, which allows children to lead a more productive, healthy life.
This project reaches approximately 10,000 public high school students aged 14 – 18 years. In addition, the project works with local leaders, teachers and parents.
• Decreased alcohol and drug consumption among youth in Brazzaville through behavior change
• Better implementation of youth protection measures through coordinated community action in Djiri, a neighbourhood in Brazzaville
• Strengthened civil society through capacity building of local actors in the field of alcohol and drugs
• Introduction of life skills lessons at public secondary schools in Brazzaville
• Implementation of a prevention programme for youths in four football clubs as well as in a parish in a disadvantaged district
• Organisation of leisure activities free of addictive substances – for instance theatrical performances and football tournaments
• Training and mentoring of 120 youth peer educators who help produce the life skills lessons in schools and who supervise leisure activities
• Training of 60 adults – preferably adults and teachers – in “Addiction and Life Skills Approach to Dealing with Teenagers“
• Preventive work in three disadvantaged boroughs (“arrondissements” 901, 902 and 903): awareness-raising in the area of youth protection provisions and inclusion of at least 300 local decision makers.