By Dipo Olowookere
As part of ways to break the culture of underage drinking and reduce alcohol-related harm among Nigerian youths, makers of beer under the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) have teamed up to launch what it called a SMASHED program.
The initiative, done under the Beer Sectoral Group (BSG) of MAN with support of the Collingwood Learning Incorporated and Thespian Theatre, is endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Health and backed by local health and education authorities in the country.
The scheme started in May 2019 in Edo State and is expected to move on to Anambra and Enugu States in September and October, covering over 60 public and private schools and reaching over 14,000 students.
A global theatre-in-education project initiated by Collingwood Learning Incorporated in the United Kingdom, SMASHED has engaged over half a million young persons in 20 countries of the world, since its inception in 2004.
It involves the delivery of key learning on the dangers of underage drinking and alcohol-related harm to secondary school students, using drama presentations, while engaging participants in a motivational learning environment and equipping them with the facts, skills and confidence to make responsible choices and develop responsible attitudes in health-related matters.
Commenting on the initiative, Chairman of BSG, Mr Jordi Borut Bel, who doubles as CEO of Nigerian Breweries Plc, stated that, “We are delighted to support the adoption of the SMASHED underage drinking program as it strengthens activities that are currently being undertaken by individual member companies to ensure that our products are not sold to or consumed by persons under the age of eighteen years.”
Mr Borut Bel noted that “the expectation of the BSG is that the program will be scaled-up to involve at least six additional States in Nigeria by 2020 with plans for wider coverage in the coming years.”
In her comments, Ms Ayo Jaiyesinmi, CEO of Thespian Theatre assured “we will continue to partner with the BSG and local health and education authorities in ensuring that the program addresses issues related with underage drinking among Nigerian youths.”
While affirming the endorsement of the initiative by the Federal Ministry of Health, Pharm Celine Onunkwo, Deputy Director, Food and Drug Services Department of the Ministry explained that “the objective of the SMASHED project is in line with the global strategy to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol, which was put together by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010 and the WHO Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of STDs in 2013 – 2020”.
She assured that “the Federal Ministry of Health will continue to work with BSG, using our existing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, in order to ensure that the activities continue to be in the best interest of public health.”.
The BSG is an umbrella body for leading brewing companies in Nigeria who are members of the Manufactures Association of Nigeria, with members including Nigerian Breweries Plc, Guinness Nigeria Plc and International Breweries Plc.
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