Remarks by Dr. Nathan N. Bakyaita
WHO Country Representative
Launch of the Tobacco Control Data Initiative
Permanent Secretary, MoH
Directors & Deputy Directors from the Ministry of Health (MoH)
Regional Project Coordinator for Development Gateway and Country Lead
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ms. Agatha Shula
National Professional Officer Responsible for Tobacco Control at World Health Organization Zambia.
Presenting remarks of behalf the WHO Country Representative Dr. Nathan Bakyaita.
I am pleased and feel greatly honoured to be part of this important event to launch the “Tobacco Control Data Initiative”. Firstly, I would like to thank Development Gateway for organizing this important meeting which has attracted participants from various sectors across health who are also affected by the growing tobacco epidemic and hence are important stakeholders in the prevention and control of tobacco use. Therefore, the importance of this meeting cannot be over-emphasized.
I wish to commend the Minister and the entire MOH team for the cordial engagement with World Health Organization in addressing health matters in the country including tobacco control. It is encouraging to note that the MoH has continued to take leadership in curbing the impact of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke on the Zambia population. However, MOH has not been working alone. It is worth noting that the positives strides are as a result of concerted efforts of not only the Government but significant contributions of Civil Society Organizations such as the Development Gateway; the reason we are all here this morning.
As you may be aware ladies and gentlemen, Tobacco is a major risk factor for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) accounting for 71% of deaths globally. NCDs disproportionately affect people in low- and middle-income countries including Zambia where three quarters of the global NCD deaths occur. In Zambia, NCDs account for 23% of all deaths in the country. This has become a major public health problem and is rapidly growing with major consequences on morbidity and mortality levels and should be of keen interest to all stakeholders here. Zambia is losing over 7,000 lives every year due to tobacco related illnesses with more than ZMW2.8 billion lost to tobacco related health care costs. Yet Zambia is still grappling with adoption of a comprehensive tobacco control law that is critical to curbing the epidemic.
The Introduction of the Tobacco Control Data Initiative is a welcome development whose timing is right for this country. The World Health Organization Zambia commends Development Gateway for developing the Tobacco Control Data Initiative which will be a critical data source for monitoring the tobacco epidemic and other parameters. The Data Initiative will enable policy makers and the general public to use essential data more effectively to inform policy. TCDI would fill in the data gap in tobacco control that would enable legislators and decision makers use correct data to inform public health policies. Zambia needs a comprehensive tobacco control law and the time is now!
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
WHO has been actively involved in rallying ministries, United Nations agencies and civil society organizations behind political declarations to create a world where no-one is left behind. WHO commends Development Gateway that has spearheaded this data initiative contributing to improved access to credible & validated data on the tobacco program in Zambia.
Distinguished colleagues’ ladies and gentlemen,
With support from the WHO Framework Convention Tobacco Control (FCTC), Zambia is making commendable progress in domesticating the FCTC treaty to adequately address the tobacco epidemic through developing and establishing comprehensive legal framework for effective national response. With Support from the WHO FCTC 2030 Project and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Zambia has been able to make the following strides;
1. accelerate progress towards the enactment of a comprehensive tobacco control legislation (Regulatory Impact Assessment undertaken and approved, drafted a WHO FCTC compliant tobacco control legislation)
2. Establishment of a National Coordination Mechanism
3. Developed a Comprehensive Tobacco Control Strategic Plan
4. Developed a Tobacco Control Communication Plan
5. Completed a Zambia Investment Case for tobacco Control
6. Undertaken the Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2021
It is also worth stating that WHO will now support the Zambian Government to implement alternative livelihoods to Tobacco farming through a Project called “Tobacco Free Farms Project” with support from the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative in Geneva.
Tobacco-Free Farms is a joint UN initiative between the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Programme and the UN Capital Development Fund, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture (National Government) and County Departments of Health and Agriculture to support tobacco farmers to make the switch to alternative livelihoods. The Project is set to be implemented for 2 years beginning in January 2023.
Call to Action
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, as you all know that a healthy population culminates into wealth for the nation.
In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of a one-third reduction in NCD premature mortality by 2030, tobacco control must be a priority for governments and communities worldwide.
Zambia should respond to the tobacco epidemic through full implementation of the WHO FCTC with focus on the following key policies
1. Increase tobacco taxation to reduce affordability of tobacco products (FCTC Article 6)
2. Enforcement bans on smoking in all public places to protect people from tobacco smoke (FCTC Article 8)
3. Mandate that tobacco products carry health warning that cover 50% of the packaging (FCTC Article 11)
4. Implement plain packaging (FCTC Article 11 Guidelines for implementation)
5. Institute mass media campaigns against tobacco use (FCTC Article 12
6. Implement and enforce a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (FCTC Article 13)
The implementation of these strategies in the country when done correctly will culminate in reduced deaths and disease burden, reduced health expenditure and productive individuals and communities.
I thank you all for your attention!