Sierra Leone is set to accelerate its anti-tobacco control efforts with the help of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners, an official said on Wednesday.Dr. Alie Wurie, Director of Non communicable Diseases, said the Health Ministry was poised to make tobacco control a national priority through prevention, legislation and education of the public on tobacco’s health dangers and costs.
He made the pronouncement in the context of a new WHO initiative designed to help countries fast track the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) treaty.
Sierra Leone is among 15 Low and Middle Income countries selected to benefit from the UK-funded FCTC 2030 project, which seeks to reduce tobacco consumption which is associated with several life threatening diseases, including cancer, lung and heart diseases.
Tobacco is also characterized as one of the world’s leading causes of premature death, killing half of all long-term smokers from many different non communicable diseases.
According to WHO, tobacco is also a major barrier to development, bringing vast economic, social and environmental costs to individuals and counties. The World Bank figures show that tobacco costs the global economy an estimated US$ 1.4 trillion each year in economic costs, including treating sickness and lost productivity.
Figures from Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) show that there are an estimated 40,000 tobacco users in the country and the smoking prevalence is said to be increasing, particularly among men and youth.
A delegation of technical experts from the WHO FCTC 2020 project is currently in Freetown and on Tuesday it held a major national meeting with stakeholders on the FCTC 2030.
At the head of this delegation is Andrew Black, Development Assistance Team Leader from the FCTC 2030 Secretariat in Geneva, and he said tobacco not only steals lives, it also exacerbates poverty, damages the environment and creates immense burdens on national health systems.
“As we look towards accelerated implementation of the WHO FCTC, we look forward to continuing our work with the Government and partners in tackling the growing prevalence of tobacco use in Sierra Leone,” he said.
The FCTC is an international treaty that is dedicated to ending the global tobacco epidemic, and provides a comprehensive blueprint for governments to stop tobacco use in their countries. Some 181 countries are parties to it. Sierra Leone became a party in 2009.
The FCTC 2030 project aims to support parties to the WHO FCTC that are eligible to receive official development assistance (ODA) to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by advancing the implementation of the Convention.
The project will run from April 2017 until March 2021. Cape Verde, Egypt, Madagascar and Zambia are the other African countries that make up the 15 countries that are benefitting from the FCTC 2030 project.