Blue Cross News

Self-help training in Botswana


Project preparation visit at Blue Cross Society Tanzania


International Blue Cross works within good governance structures whilst implementing projects and programmes with its partners. This requires good project cycle management, throughout preparation and implementation of operational handbook that covers internal regulations, policies that steer professional code of conduct, administrative, human resources and finance management.

Between 27.11-4.12.2019 Anne Babb and Sonja Pönisch run this intensive workshop for Blue Cross Society Tanzania’s secretariat, board and volunteers. In addition we had meetings with key stakeholders. We visited the City Council department for NGO work and discussed the next steps of collaboration with developing life skills, community action and policy advocacy work. At Arusha Sober Houses we discussed collaboration for community action with leaders of NA based therapeutic community treatment model and we facilitated a discussion with two churches in order to find ways to reach vulnerable communities.

Blue Cross Tanzania enjoyed also learning basics of project cycle management and latest information about alcohol and drug harm, self-help and skills on creating change through behavioral prevention. Thank you for all at BC Tanzania for your warm hospitality and we wish you much strength and blessings for implementing all new things on your daily work!

Job advert: Alcohol and Drug Policy Adovacy Officer based in Africa, 8 hrs/week


IBC looks for a committed and innovative drug and alcohol field professional living in Africa and willing to work within a Christian value-based organisation

Alcohol and Drug Policy Advocacy Officer:
Part Time 8hrs/week (20%) from March 2020 or as mutually agreed.

As Advocacy Officer you are based in your home office working closely on-line with the IBC secretariat and you will:

Job Description & Requirements

  • Develop the IBC advocacy programme and key messages in French and English based on evidence based research that is based on independent data without vested interests of drug and alcohol industry;
  • Establish and maintain structures and instruments for planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of progress against IBC advocacy plans within PCM framework;
  • Develop and submit timely and high-quality advocacy messages to support IBC’s global advocacy work together with IBC board and leadership;
  • Coach local programme coordinators and teams (mainly online coaching) on the topics of alcohol and drugs and policy advocacy. Organise substance abuse policy advocacy trainings to develop capacities of implementing partners;
  • Develop and foster collaboration and policy work with responsible authorities, governments and NGOs at country level and in international forums;
  • Represent IBC and actively participate in inter-agency forums and thematic working groups with partner NGOs and institutional donors as agreed by General Secretary;
  • Support the Fundraising and Communication team by providing advocacy insights, prospect donor contacts and concepts for funding applications;
  • Carry out any other tasks as required for the smooth running of IBC.
  • University degree in public health or in a relevant field
  • High knowledge of drug and alcohol harm
  • Commitment to following evidence based alcohol and drug policy without industry interference
  • No vested interests or connections to alcohol and drug industry
  • Working experience in development and cooperation, preferably with field experience with grassroots organisations in Africa
  • Excellent skills in coaching project partners
  • Fluent in French and English
  • Possibility for an excellent internet connection
  • Outstanding communication, social and networking skills
  • Commitment to work within Christian value-based organisation
  • Driven to support capacity building of partners in order to assist vulnerable people and to work with the issue of alcohol and other drugs
  • Team spirit, commitment, and flexibility. Independent, proactive and solution-oriented
  • Capable of working in a multi-cultural environment. Honest and trustworthy
  • Must be located in Africa

What we offer:
• Interesting and varied activities in an international environment with many opportunities to be proactive
• A motivated and committed international team
• Flexibility in work arrangements
• Salary and home office allowance according to your national pay structures and within IBC policies
• Christian value based work environment

Recruitment process
If you are interested in raising the IBC advocacy work to a new level, we are looking forward to receiving your complete electronic application with CV and motivation letter in English and with academic & work certificates in English or French by 6th of January 2020 at, with subject “Advocacy Officer”.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to take a written on-line assessment during the week 20-23.1.2020. From these finally shortlisted candidates will be invited to an interview online on 5th February 2020.

For further information please contact General Secretary Anne Babb:

IBC Network Committee Meeting in Paris


Paris - The IBC Network Committee (board) meeting, together with IBC Secretariat staff, took place from 28.-30 October for the third time in the French capital. The agenda included strategy development, the planning for the General Assembly in 2020 in South Africa and updates from Lisbon Addicitions Conference etc. IBC wants to take a stronger presence on drug prevention and speak against drug legalisation movements. Especially cannabis is a concern as more availability is leading to higher per capita consumption and increase of consumers that creates more harm and addiction. We need strong civil society voice world wide to tackle against the commercial powers on legalisation of drugs.

Rolf Hartmann from Brazil presented a thank you for IBC President Albert Moukolo and GS Anne Babb for the support to BC Brazil. Thank you Rolf Hartmann also for representing IBC at Lisbon Addictions conference!

IBC Network Committee Meeting in Paris

Joining forces to direct Blue Cross Global Strategy


Again in Paris! The IBC Network Committee (board) and IBC Secretariat staff meeting took place from 8-10. May in the French capital. Main points of the agenda were the planning for the General Assembly in 2020 and the strategical outlook for the period 2020 - 2024. It continues to be important to involve all Blue Crosses around the world more closely in gloal steering processes. Participants brainstormed how to achieve this and -additionally to the actions of the IBC General Secretariat- the board members agreed to take this message to the Blue Crosses in their countries. In a world where the global alcohol consume rate is rising, global action and strategies are needed.

Life Skills for Youth in Chad

Project visit to our implementing partner in Africa - Blue Cross Chad


IBC General Secretary Anne and IBC Finance Officer Katrin are back from their visit to our member organisation and implementing partner in Chad. It was a week full of activities, revising and working to improve the Life Skills Programme for youth further.
The IBC alcohol and drug prevention programme has been successfully running in the Chadian capital of N´Djamena since 2013. Meanwhile 20 schools participate in protecting young people from alcohol harm and sensitizing them for gender equality. Find out more about the programme in our programmes section!

IBC alcohol and drug prevention in Congo-Brazzaville on TV

Snapshot of IBC´s prevention work with underprivileged communities in Congo-Brazzaville


Swiss Broadcaster SRF1 has accompanied the Blue Cross alcohol and drug prevention programme IBC implements with its local partner in Congo-Brazzaville. One of the participants is talking about his experiences in the video (German version)

Field visit in Congo-Brazzaville

In December, Flavia Ganarin, the new IBC programme officer, was ready for her first visit to the youth prevention project in Congo-Brazzaville.


In December, Flavia Ganarin, the new IBC programme officer, was ready for her first visit to the youth prevention project in Congo-Brazzaville.

The project “Generation 5S” stands for “sans alcool, sans drogue, sans VIH/SIDA, sans violence, sans discrimination” (without alcohol, drugs, VIH/SIDA, violence, discrimination). The participating youth of Brazzaville learn here to cope with difficulties in their life in a healthy way – without alcohol and drugs. The programme gives them a space to develop their talents and skills. Through regular Life Skills trainings at schools, the young participants are supported to grow into responsible adults with self-esteem and positive outlook.

For Flavia´s visit, the local team of IBC partner organisation CTPAD had prepared a diverse programme. After a warm welcome they accompanied her through a series of visits and meetings with local stakeholders such as the Evangelical Church of Congo, the Institute responsible for the elaboration of school curricula, the Institute of deaf children, several neighborhood committees and multiple schools where IBC programme activities are being implemented.

She conducted focus group discussions with participating youth to get first-hand feedback, attended life skills trainings and met with parent´s initiatives which support the programme.

Besides this, Flavia has organised a variety of capacity-building trainings on project cycle management, monitoring and evaluation and prevention of sexual abuse and harassment with the local project staff. “It was gratifying to see how the local people are eager to learn and develop the programme further. It has been running here since 2013 and thousands of students have so far benefitted from the programme. What is very important and makes me proud is that the local politicians and stakeholders are engaged and support the initiative unanimously”.

During her stay Flavia met many young people who, thanks to the programme, made a conscious decision to live without alcohol and drugs - that gives hope! Due to the success, IBC will expand its activities in Congo in 2019 and intensify cooperation with churches, police, associations and community leaders.

IBC Network Committee Meeting

In November 2017 IBC Secretariat staff and board (Network Committee) came together at the Blue Cross Germany in Wuppertal.


The IBC Network Committee Meeting took place at the Blue Cross Germany in Wuppertal. The seven Network Comitee (NC) members and the General Secretariat have their traditional three-days-get-together to update each other and synchronize the work between the Secretariat and the Network Committee.

One of the main topics of mutual input was the fundraising and development of projects. The NC members, coming from six different countries across the globe, work together with the Secretariat in different working groups. Besides the fundraising the focus was much on developing the organisational strategy 2018. Besides engaging in discussions, evaluating and assessing the work done in 2017 and planning for 2018 there is of course time for leisure. The evening dinners give participants a chance for casual exchange and getting to know each other better on the personal level - for the benefit of a fruitful cooperation!

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

We live in the age of big data. NGOs are no exception.


We live in the age of big data. NGOs are no exception.

European Union's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect on May 25, 2018. The new regulation affects every organisation across the globe that wants to do business with an individual or business in the EU. Switzerland applies the regulation too and as IBC we follow the Swiss guidelines. Please find here the offical document of the Swiss Confederation to this topic in German and French.

We will therefore continue to hold your contact details and periodically mail/ email you about news and issues that relate to our aims. We hope you will find our communication useful and of interest; however, if at any point you no longer wish to receive this information just let us know – we will make sure that opt-out options are included with any mailings we send out. We will hold your data securely and will not share it with third parties.

If you wish to unsubscribe from our Newsletter or you don't want to receive our mailings any more, you may do so by sending an email to:

Cross Border Aspects on Alcohol Policy

In Europe, alcohol policy is not only a national issue


IBC GS is taking part on Estonian EU presidency Conference on ’Cross Border Aspects in Alcohol Policy.’ With the Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Network board where Anne Babb is also a member we prepared a resolution to highlight the importance of dealing with Alcohol Policy issues not just in national but also at EU level. As IBC we acknowledge that this is a global issue and needs attention all over the world. Not all alcohol policy issues can be solved nationally. The three key messages are: Cross Border purchases need limits and excise duty would protect public health. Secondly, cross border marketing needs better regulating and we call for ban on Alcohol advertising. Thirdly, we demand labelling with ingredients and nutritional information to all alcohol products. This information is at all other products- why consumer should not have it also in alcohol? See the resolution here.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy - join us creating awareness on the fatal concequences!


The consumption of alcohol in pregnant women sadly is still a reality around the globe. Many are not aware that even one glass of alcohol consumed can harm the unborn child forever. Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are the consequence. Clinical pictures vary from hypernervosity and abnormal appearance, short height, low body weight, small head size, poor coordination to low intelligence, behavior problems and problems with hearing or seeing. Yearly the 9th of September is the International FASD Awareness Day - so spread the message of the risks and fatal dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy! Raise awareness on this disease in order to keep pregnant women from drinking alcohol! The unborn child is too young to drink!

Network Committee Meeting in Germany

IBC board and Secretariat staff meeting in Germany


Blue Cross Network Committee has met from 13 until 16 February at the premises of Blue Cross Germany. It was the first time the new Network Committee which has been elected at last year´s General Assembly met and commenced its work.

The exchange between the President Albert Moukolo, the Committee members and the General Secretariat has been constructive and concrete: The Development and the Finance Commission have launched their work and set up their operational methods and defined their next working steps.

The strategic vision of the Blue Crosses Network Model, an enhanced cooperation between the Blue Cross Member Organizations, has been brought forward. A great support for that was having BC Germany involved in the meeting. Exchanging ideas and experiences between local members in Germany, the members of the Network Committee which bring in their respective local experience and the General Secretariat with its Secretary Anne Babb was enriching and helped all participants in better understanding the different aspects and levels of work in the Blue Cross family.

And simply getting to know each other better was delightful for all participents! We thank you all for your good job and we thank the Blue Cross Germany for its hospitality and very good organization of the meeting!

When Home is the Most Dangerous Place

Open letter to the international community


Joint Letter: When Home Is The Most Dangerous Place

When home is the most dangerous place – millions of children are growing up in families with alcohol problems, but society is largely failing them

Posted 14.2.2017

To: H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson
UNGA President,
UN Headquarters,
405 East 42nd Street, NY, 10017, USA

To: H.E. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

To: Hon. Mr. Anthony Lake
UNICEF House 3 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017, USA

To: Hon. Dr. Margaret Chan
World Health Organization,
Avenue Appia 20
CH-1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland

Dear Excellencies,

We trust our letter finds you well.

When the global community adopted the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, governments and the UN system committed themselves to an ambitious and promising agenda. Part of the commitment is a concerted effort to end all forms of violence against children.

And a concerted effort is urgently needed. Every five minutes, a child dies as a result of violence.

As the global community gears up to end violence against children, we are concerned with a group of children whose plight has remained invisible and largely ignored: children growing up in families with alcohol problems.

Making the invisible visible

For too long, these children have remained invisible, left on their own. As their parents cannot provide shelter and often basic support, also society is failing to protect and promote the rights of these children. Without hyperbole, all available evidence shows that the problem is massive:

  • In the United States, mothers convicted of child abuse are 3 times more likely to be alcoholics and fathers are 10 times more likely to be alcoholics.
  • More than 50% of all confirmed abuse reports and 75% of child deaths involve the use of alcohol or other drugs by a parent.
  • In the European Union, there are at least 9 million children growing up with alcohol-addicted parents.
  • In Australia ca. 1 million children live in households with at least one adult being addicted.
  • There are 2.6 million children of school age living with parental alcohol problems in the UK alone.
  • The number of children living in homes that are ravaged by alcohol problems sky-rockets considering the countries around the world that are currently not even measuring the issue.

Seen with the eyes of our children, the world we live in has an alcohol problem.”

Children growing up in families with alcohol problems are often exposed to physical, and/ or emotional violence and neglect, putting them at great risk:

  1. They are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder.
  2. They are three times more likely to commit suicide.
  3. They are almost four times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder themselves later on in life.

When home is the most dangerous place, society needs to step in and provide shelter and enabling environments that allow children to be children.

But so far, society has largely left these children to fend on their own. The problem of children growing up in families with alcohol problems is exacerbated by

  • Authorities’ inability to identify children and offer support, for example in schools.
  • Local and national governments’ failure to provide effective structural prevention programmes and sufficient services to affected children.
  • Governments’ failure to provide treatment services for parents with alcohol problems, especially programs that help the entire family.
  • The lack of enabling and safe environments for children, if home is no place to go to.
  • Governments’ shortcomings in implementing the Best interest principle enshrined in Art. 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

These five aspects are interdependent and need to be integrated into efforts to end all forms of violence against children.

Change is possible

Efforts in the UK provide an example of what can be possible of civil society and decision-makers join hands. Only recently, at a parliamentary cross party debate on alcohol harm, the Health Minister, Fiona Blackstock, having heard Liam Byrne and the Shadow Health Secretary, Mr Jonathan Ashworth speak about their own experiences of parental alcoholism, pledged to work to end this social injustice in the UK.

Nacoa’s Patron, the Right Honourable Liam Byrne, who set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Children of Alcoholics in 2016 will launch the Manifesto for Children of Alcoholics at the House of Commons on February 15, 2017 in honour of COA Week. To our knowledge, this is the first such Manifesto for Children of Alcoholics in the world.

The fact that hundreds of millions of children grow up exposed to neglect, abuse, and often violence due to their parents’ alcohol problems is a Child Rights issue, a public health issue, a social issue, and sustainable development issue. Sometimes, especially in low- and middle-income countries, it is a matter of life and death.

Millions of silently suffering children are the first hurt and the last helped when alcohol problems enter their homes.”

Achievement of the SDGs, including SDG 16.2 will not be possible if we do not summon our best efforts to alleviate the plight of children growing up in families with alcohol problems.

When their own homes are the most dangerous places for millions of children worldwide, society has an urgent obligation to provide safer and more enabling environments for the children, to help their parents and to prevent harm.

When the most vulnerable ones are left fending on their own, we must shift gears collectively.

In this spirit, we call on the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner to put the situation of children of alcoholics on their agenda. And we urge you to explore ways to make the Best Interest Principle, enshrined in Art. 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child work for children of alcoholics.

Using the collaborative synergies of the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda2030, we urge the UN system to exercise leadership and seriously explore ways forward to address and improve the situation of millions of children around the world.

Yours sincerely,

Kristina Sperkova,
International President
IOGT International

Anne Babb,
General Secretary
International Blue Cross

Hilary Henriques MBE
Chief Executive
Nacoa – The National Association for Children of Alcoholics
United Kingdom

Sis Wenger
CEO/ President
National Association For Children of Alcoholics

Project Visit to Chad

GS Anne Babb and PO Daniele Polini visiting the Life Skills Programme in Chad


General Secretary Anne Babb and Programme Officer Daniele Polini experienced during their field visit to Chad from 24 January to 2 February 2017 a week full of activities, interesting and welcoming people, workshops and meetings.

Their visit to the alcohol- and drug prevention programme „Life Skills and Peer Education“ which is implemented with the Blue Cross Chad, has confirmed its positive impact since 2013. Teachers and caregivers are witnessing social empowerment and a decrease of the consumption of alcohol and tobacco among participants. It has become clear during the visit that focusing on Gender Based Violence problematics in the new project phase is highly important. Gender problematics are widespread and many girls emphasized how enriching the classes are for them and showed real urge to talk about gender-specific problems. They range from social and professional discrimination to child-marriage and sexual abuse and pointed out the personal importance the programme has for them.

In order to improve the quality of the programme further Daniele Polini held several successful workshops on social accountability, local partnerships and fundraising. General Secretary Anne Babb had meetings with the local representative of the WHO, the African Development Bank, the Interior Ministry, Health Ministry, Family and Social Ministry, the Supreme Islamic Council and the Head of Evangelical Missions in Chad as well as the Mayor of N´Djamena in order to sensitise and inform stakeholders in those institutions about alcohol and drug problematics.

So far the participating stakeholders are very supportive of the project and report positive changes and the motivation to keep going and developing and broadening the project activities further. In order to make behavioural changes sustainable the Government of Chad has involved several of its departments and civil society to support the preparation of an Alcohol Law during the past years. Anne Babb met with the various committees established herefore and reports huge advances. If everything goes well the law could possibly be passed in 2017, due to the joint expertise of Blue Cross Chad, the involved ministries and IBC.

In a country with the highest alcohol consumption in the world (if abstainers are excluded) it became once more clear, how important the work done by the Blue Cross and its partners is.

We thank all the people who welcomed Anne and Daniele and especially the Blue Cross Chad for its hospitality and guidance throughout the visit!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

Christmas is on our doorstep and the New Years´ Eve approaching.


Christmas is on our doorstep and the New Years´ Eve approaching. Reflecting on the past year we can say: It was fruitful, full of hard work and successful initiatives. We would like to thank all those who have supported us in our work and efforts to alleviate alcohol and drug-related harm. The Team oft he International Blue Cross wishes you and your family, your friends and colleagues, and the persons you care for a blessed Christmas Season and a truly happy start into the new year!

European Alcohol Policy Conference in Slovenia

Exchange on the do´s and dont´s in alcohol policy work


IBC General Secretary Anne Babb and Programme Officer Daniele Polini attended the 7th European Alcohol Policy Conference, taking place on the 22 and 23 November 2016 in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The exchange with stakeholders in the field of alcohol policy was very interesting. New information has been gathered and the importance of engaging in alcohol policy activities has been reiterated. The Slovenian Health Minister Milojka Kolar Celarc advocated for better informing the public about Alcohol Policy Actions as they do pay off.

Alcohol causes at least 7 types of cancer. We need to communicate this to public to create better awareness on the dangers of alcohol consumption. The Slovenian Education Ministry emphasized that establishing a better intersectoral cooperation at the Government level on alcohol is very important. A WHO representative reminded us that Africa is a key for policy development. 11 African countries have new policies since 2010. The RARHA working group pointed out that for creating population wide approaches on alcohol prevention workplaces have a key role to play.

One of the concluding messages gathered from different speeches is: We must work together to reduce the availability of alcohol. This will reduce public health costs and especially enable the most vulnerable populations to leading healthier lives.

Working towards that goal, the International Blue Cross wants to encourage its members and partners to work towards evidence based alcohol policies and advocate for an approach where alcohol availability, pricing, marketing and population wide prevention is carefully considered.

IBC General Assembly in Madagascar

Uniting Blue Cross members from around 30 countries to work on future strategy


At this years´ International Blue Cross General Assembly 70 participants from member organizations in 30 countries met in Madagascar to support each other in their global fight against drug and alcohol related harm. From 3rd to 7th October we discussed and learnt from each other. The focus was at the new organizational structure and the financing of activities and closer involvement of the member organizations. A new board has been elected and the statutes revised. Furthermore the name „International Federation of the Blue Cross (IFBC)“ has been changed to „International Blue Cross (IBC)“. Besides this an important outcome of the meeting was the election of the new Network Committee which consists of the following seven members for the coming four years: Albert Moukolo (Switzerland, President), Reinhard Jahn (Germany, Vice-President), Rolf Hartmann (Brasil), Ingalill Söderberg (Sweden), Palesa Phelane (South Afrika), Fajanarina Rasolomana (Madagascar) and Hans Eglin (Switzerland). Holger Lux (Romania) and Revocatus Nginila (Tanzania) are the elected substitute members.

The IBC thanks all the participants which filled this event with their ideas and thoughts and made it an unforgettable experience. Our biggest „Thank You“ goes to our hosts from the Blue Cross Madagascar, who organised the event and overwhelmed us with their hospitality.

We are looking forward to implementing the strategy 2016-2020 with you and developing good collaborations and creating new initiatives with our members and partners.

Please find our new strategy attached and we look forward to sharing updates in months and years to come.


Every 10 seconds a human being dies because of alcohol.


Every 10 seconds a human being dies because of alcohol.

At the same time, children and young people around the world are exposed to an avalanche of alcohol advertising to entice them to consume alcohol. However, nobody holds the alcohol industry accountable for promoting death and disease. At the International Blue Cross (IFBC), we see a world where everyone can choose a life free of addiction. IFBC encourages local action to tackle alcohol related harm. Even the best treatment services will not succeed unless we build a world where we can protect public health and prevent the spread of disease.

“I do not want our youth to be subconsciously manipulated through advertising to become alcohol users. One of the proven methods of reducing alcohol related harm is to ensure that alcohol is not too cheap and that it is appropriately taxed, sold and marketed. Marketing restrictions are essential part of good alcohol policy. This is a global battle and together we can have results,” Anne Babb, General Secretary IFBC.

The alcohol industry has accumulated a worldwide track record of aggressively opposing and undermining evidence-based political processes to protect people from alcohol harm. Big Alcohol has piled up a massive track record of directly targeting children and youth, of sexualizing and objectifying women, of doing anything possible to protect and boost their own profits – no matter the consequences for people, families, communities and societies around the world.

Join us and the worldwide network of 20 organizations led by IOGT International by following the campaign #BigAlcoholExposed and learn more about how you can get involved at

For additional information, please contact us:

International Blue Cross
+41 31 301 9804
+41 76 467 0725

How does alcohol increase cancer risk?

Cancer prevention: an article by Lucy Eccles


An article by, Lucy Eccles

15 March 2016 | Cancer Prevention

Lucy Eccles has a background in biomedical science and is currently International Communications Officer at World Cancer Research Fund.

For some people, our recommendation on limiting how much alcohol to drink can be the hardest one to swallow. From sipping merlot in Bordeaux to clinking steins of beer in Munich, to warming up with vodka in Russia, drinking alcohol is an ingrained part of many cultures worldwide.

Globally the amount of alcohol consumed in 2010, was equal to 620 measures of whiskey, or 310 glasses of red wine per person over the age of 15, and Eastern Europeans drank more alcohol than any other part of the world. These habits could be putting huge numbers of us at risk.

World Cancer Research Fund International’s global analysis of research shows that drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of several cancers: bowel, breast, mouth and throat, oesophageal, and liver. But how does alcohol actually interact with us to cause such a drastic effect?

How alcohol increases cancer risk

Nobody is completely sure exactly how alcohol interacts with our bodies to increase the likelihood of cancer forming, but there are some strong theories for how this could work.

Alcohol is converted to a toxic substance that damages DNA

Alcohol that we drink contains ethanol, which has been found to be carcinogenic. When we drink ethanol, it is converted by an enzyme in our cells into a toxic substance, acetaldehyde. Usually acetaldehyde is converted by other enzymes (known as aldehyde dehydrogenase) into acetate, which is useful for the cells to make energy. However, when there is a large amount of alcohol entering the body, there is more acetaldehyde than the enzymes can process, causing a build up of acetaldehyde. This can be dangerous because acetaldehyde can directly damage DNA, affecting how the DNA functions and its ability to repair itself, which can lead to the cells becoming cancerous.

So the more we drink, the more toxic acetaldehyde builds up, the more DNA damage occurs and the cancer risk increases.

But it’s not just heavy drinkers who are at risk. Bacteria found in the mouth are particularly good at converting ethanol into the toxic acetaldehyde, which can give you a build up of acetaldehyde even if you’ve only been drinking smaller amounts.

Alcohol can reduce folate absorption

Folate is a vitamin found in a variety of different foods such as dark green vegetables and legumes. It affects the way DNA works, in most cases acting as an ‘off’ switch for particular genes. Drinking too much alcohol can reduce how much folate we absorb in the liver. Absorbing less folate can remove this ‘off’ switch mechanism, which can result in big changes in the cell, potentially in ways that can make a cell more likely to become cancerous.

Alcohol could allow more dangerous molecules entry into cells

Another theory is that alcohol could physically help carry other cancer-causing substances into cells. This means that alcohol can act as a solution that carcinogens can mix with to help them sneak into cells.

Ideas specific to cancer type

There are also some explanations of how drinking alcohol can lead to specific cancer types. One example of this is that drinking excess alcohol can cause liver cirrhosis, which can make liver cancer much more likely. For breast cancer there is an idea that alcohol can affect hormone levels in women, causing oestrogen levels to rise, which could help cancer cells to grow. However, many factors can affect oestrogen levels, so this explanation isn’t that straightforward.

What next?

It is clear more work needs to be done to pin down the exact mechanisms, but what is evident is there are many ways by which alcohol can really do some damage. To help fill the gaps in our knowledge about how alcohol and other lifestyle factors affect cancer risk, we are developing and testing a groundbreaking new method to work this out. This method will allow us to systematically review mechanistic studies related to diet, nutrition, physical activity and cancers in a robust, standardised way.

So, it may be a difficult choice to leave the drinks on the shelf, but our bodies really will thank us in the long term.

A Focus on Youth

Seven statements on our work with young people


Thank you so much! It is so important what you are doing for the kids, that like me grew up under hard circumstances


The behaviour after some meetings changes. They begin to smile more, play more, and speak more freely about their difficulties and families.

Social WorkerBrazil

People around me are much happier. My daughter now feels safe with daddy.

Alcoholic father in recoveryLesotho

Hello, my name is Salma. I am a student in the sixth class from LIMI and former President of CVC club (life skills). I am delighted to be the only girl who is President among the four clubs that exist. As a girl, when I present myself as Club President, others think that I cannot lead a group of girls and boys. But, I can hold my mandate. The Blue Cross has done for us huge things. I realized that with ambition and sufficient self-esteem also a girl can reach important goals. We can get to where we want, you just have to follow your dreams to achieve it.

Student of a Life Skills programmeChad

I had a miserable life, which was filled with negativity and I suffered from low self-esteem. I drank alcohol and smoke marijuana in order to forget about my trouble. I was part of a gang and got in trouble every weekend. Blue Cross Namibia made me realize that I can live a life without alcohol and drugs. I was touched by Leoba Bono’s motivational speech, who is the field worker at our school. I thank Blue Cross a lot for happy life I live now!

Student of a Life Skills programmeNamibia

When I know there is someone who believes in me, I begin to believe in myself.

Child participating in a Blue Cross projectDenmark

One thing I noticed is that she was very afraid of being alone. She could not be alone in a room in the house. Even to go to the bathroom, someone needed to go along. If not one came along she would wet her pants. But, after she started attending KIDS Support Groups, this changed. Today she goes to the bathroom alone and is in other rooms in the house alone with tranquillity.

Mother of a child participating in a KIDS GroupBrazil

In Loving Memory

Kirstie Rendall-Mkosi, Network Committee Member 2008 - 2012

Kirstie Rendall-Mkosi

Senior Lecturer, School of Health Systems & Public Health University of Pretoria

International Blue Cross Network committee member 2008-2012

Kirstie Rendall-Mkosi, who died on Saturday 24th October 2015 at the age of 54, will be greatly missed by people involved with Blue Cross work in over 40 countries around the world.

Kirstie brought a great evidence-based and researched view to the work of the International Blue Cross. With her good listening and facilitation skills, she enabled the board to take big steps to deepen their understanding of global issues of public health. Kirstie showed us the importance of seeing alcohol as a public health issue. Not just the abusive use of alcohol but the role alcohol itself plays in public health. Kirstie believed in community action and involving all citizens to take a role on tackling alcohol harm especially in Africa. Her work was aimed at sowing the seeds of change. It was evident that through her tireless efforts she wanted to leave the world a better place. She had passion and enthusiasm to her field of work and she had the ability to make other people welcome to join her in this work. She enabled and inspired other people to feel passionately about these causes too.

Her work within IFBC board was outstanding and will long be remembered. As a result of her contributions, IFBC has created good networks with African Universities and been able to network with leading people in the field of alcohol. She contributed by sharing her research and produced a handbook: “Communities Taking Action- Reducing Alcohol Harm” in 2013 for the use of Blue Cross organizations worldwide. She provided various training sessions to Blue Cross organizations and was coaching and supporting them to take steps forward to enable real change to take place.

Kirstie was a very kind and gentle person with a great sense of humor. She had the ability to make anyone feel welcome in her presence whether you were a president or a peasant. Her holistic view of life and work meant that she could translate research or policies in a practical way for people doing groundwork to utilise – always with the view of improving their livelihoods.

This was evident in one of her dreams, which was to build cottages in a rural community plagued by Fetal Alcohol syndrome where expecting mothers can stay for their pregnancy term and be taken care of. Kirstie wanted to truly mobilize and implement evidence based practices and her pioneering spirit was truly inspirational to us all in Blue Cross.

Tania Diederiks, who worked as part of International Blue Cross team writes: “I got to know Kirstie through IFBC, but because of her endearing nature we soon became friends beyond IFBC. I shared her journey with her from diagnoses till the end. Through it all what stood out for me and what I will take with me into my own life is her positive and brave outlook on what life may bring and her tenacity to accept what she cannot change and change and take charge of what she can and then always caring about others.”

The President of IFBC, Albert Moukolo writes: For me, as many others friends:

"I was shocked and saddened to hear of Kirstie's death. I wish to offer my deepest sympathy and condolences personally to her family on this dark day. Kirstie was a very thoughtful and wonderful person. I will never forget those trips we had in Pretoria. I will always remember Kirstie as an honest and cheerful woman who loved to work for addicted people. Our Blue Cross movement is privileged to have known her."

By sharing these memories we want to express our heartfelt sympathy to those survived by her: husband Sicelo and sons Sello and Sihle , mother Aileen and brothers Alastair and Duncan. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deut. 33:27

Her ‘family’ at Blue Cross will miss her dearly!

On behalf of the International Blue Cross
Anne Babb, General Secretary

Global Alcohol Policy Alliance Conference 2015

IBC and Blue Cross Member organizations discussing best policy options

More than 20 participants from Blue Cross member organizations around the world joined the International Blue Cross in Edinburgh for the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance conference. IBC’s key message focused on how NGOs can work closely with governments and other partners to influence alcohol policies at the national level. Blue Cross Lesotho and Blue Cross Chad both presented the steps taken at their local and national level to influence the current draft alcohol policies for their respective nations. Another key message given by General Secretary Anne Babb was need for individuals and partners focussed on global health issues to recognize how consumers, particularly youth, are negatively affected by the advertising and sponsorship campaigns of the powerful alcohol industry. You can read more about the conference by visiting the website.

Video: Alcohol: A global concern

Too Young to Drink

Press Release on the fatal consequences of alcohol during pregnancy


Together with 60 worldwide organizations in more than 30 countries around the world, the International Blue Cross has joined the EUFASD (European FASD Alliance) in its global campaign „Too Young To Drink“. The social media campaign was launched symbolically on 09 September 2014 at 09:09 hrs to create awareness of the dangers associated with drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

What is FASD?

The range of harm to an unborn baby due to drinking during pregnancy is called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Alcohol can hurt the baby’s brain, heart, eyes, and other organs.

Children with FASD can have a hard time learning, controlling how they act, and making friends. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause lifelong harm to the unborn child. These nine months last a lifetime so let’s keep them alcohol-free. FASD affects us all, but it is 100% preventable. Together we can prevent FASD! For more information, please visit

About the International Blue Cross

The International Blue Cross is a global health development organization working in the field of addiction. The mission of the International Blue Cross is to prevent and reduce substance abuse among the most vulnerable people around the world. Drawing on the global diversity, experience and passion of its 41 members, the International Blue Cross constitutes a credible and renowned organization driven by the values, professionalism, governance and local community connections needed to effectively address one of the world’s greatest social burdens of our time.

In developing countries, there is little information available regarding the dangers associated with drinking during pregnancy. South Africa has the highest rate of children affected by FASD. The International Blue Cross runs prevention projects for teenagers in several African countries by teaching essential “Life Skills”. Peer educators target alcohol during pregnancy as one of the themes of the life skills lessons among other important topics like HIV/AIDS and drugs.

“Tackling Harmful Alcohol Use.”

A new OECD report documents best policy options


Dear friends,

Last week the OECD published “Tackling Harmful Alcohol Use.” This is a very important report!

Certain patterns of drinking have social impacts - and they vary from country to country. This publication explains the patterns and suggest evidence-based measures governments and governing bodies can take to reduce the harm caused by alcohol. You can see the main findings here:

Effective measures that IFBC promotes, which are now also highlighted by OECD report.

> Regulating and restricting availability of alcoholic beverages;
       - Minimum legal purchase age,
       - Government monopoly of retail sales,
       - Restrictions on hours and days of sale,
> Reducing demand through alcohol taxation and pricing mechanisms;
       - Minimum tax rates for all alcoholic beverages
> Regulating the marketing of alcoholic beverages (in particular to younger people);
       - Legal restrictions on advertising and promotions,
> Enacting appropriate drink-driving policies;
       - Administrative license suspension,
       - Graduated licensing for novice drivers,
> Raising awareness and support for effective policies.
> Implementing screening programmes and brief interventions for hazardous and harmful use of alcohol.
       - Brief interventions with at-risk drinkers.

As the General Secretary for IFBC I want to highlight that it is essential that National Governments should consider Alcohol in all policies. In social and health policies the regulations on access to treatment, rehabilitation and other support services needs to be defined. If the process is not clear, it is very hard for implementing professionals to secure a treatment path for their clients. Also, national strategies on monitoring health issues should include alcohol and other substances in ordr to provide objective data to understand the local situation. Health and Social Ministries are also responsible for creating prevention strategies that cover the issues related to substance abuse.

Interior ministries are usually responsible for the security of the country and therefore substance abuse related crime and violence needs to be considered. In addition, harm to others is a serious safety issue in traffic and transport and in policies of protecting vulnerable people like children. The Global status report on Alcohol also shows that high level of various accidents are a result of substance abuse and the OECD report identifies the need to act.

Trade and finance ministries have the responsibility to create healthy markets where businesses pay their taxes and goods and services are appropriately priced and taxed. One of the proven methods of reducing alcohol related harm is to ensure that alcohol is not too cheap and that it is appropriately taxed, sold and marketed. Licensing, opening hours and marketing restrictions are essential part of good alcohol policy.

As you can see, alcohol relates to most policies and we as professionals in the field of substance abuse are directly affected by our national and local policies. There is no treatment service that can be effective for the individual unless the alcohol related policies create a safety net that supports the change. Blue Cross members are experts on service delivery or in other words, we are the organisations that implement alcohol policy in practice. Therefore, we must assist in creating the structures for a sustainable effective alcohol policy implementation.

I wish you much courage and enthusiasm to keep working on these important, life changing issues!

Anne Babb

Norwegian Prime Minister supports Blue Cross

PM Erna Solberg attends inauguration ceremony of the Blue Cross treatment center Slemdal


On the 27th of January, 2015, the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, joined the Blue Cross of Norway at the official opening ceremony of a new treatment center in the Slemdal neighborhood of Oslo.

General Secretary of BC Norway, Jan Elverum, said that “In recent years, the Blue Cross (Norway) has been forced to downsize treatment. We now see a new development, which is very gratifying.”

PM Solberg said in her greeting that the Blue Cross Norway continues to be at the forefront of drug rehabilitation. NGOs began offering services at a time when there was lack of treatment available. The Blue Cross operates the nation's oldest institution for treatment of addicts. Rehabilitation is a public responsibility, but we still need private initiatives, she said.

Prime Minister Solberg toured the institution together with staff and patients and was clearly impressed by what she saw. Tom, a client of the center, told her that he was grateful he did not need to wait long when seeking treatment. “I'll be here for at least six months… here I can learn about nutrition, diet and more about training. I hope I can become a personal trainer one day,” he said. Tom is not even 30 years old and has suffered from drug abuse for many years.

The Blue Cross Treatment Center Slemdal was made possible through Solberg’s commitment to buy 200 new beds for treatment of addicts. At Slemdal the Blue Cross has 20 new beds at its disposal.

“We look forward to cooperating with the Blue Cross in Slemdal. They have built a good, new center that offers specialized services. The combination of good professionals and a practical building provides a good framework for treatment, said Unni Aker, a special adviser to the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority.

The Blue Cross Treatment Center Slemdal offers treatment for people who have serious substance abuse and addiction problems. Particular focus is on the age group 18-35 years. The treatment program consists of individual and group-based therapy. The objective is to bring about a change process that provides quality of life and a life without addiction.

IBC Receives ZEWO Certification

The Swiss certification approved IBC´s finances as effective and transparent


In December 2014 the International Blue Cross received the ZEWO seal of approval. ZEWO is the Swiss certification body for charitable Organizations that collect donations. The seal of approval stands for:

  • dedicated, efficient and effective use of resources
  • transparent information and significant accounting
  • independent and appropriate control structures
  • open communication and fair funding

IFBC applied for the ZEWO certification over a year ago, undergoing a rigorous process of complete investigation into its financial accounts and organizational management structure. We thank the team at ZEWO for their trust in our organization and are proud to carry this prestigious Swiss seal of approval!

To find out more about the certification process, click here (DE/FR)

Evidence-Based Legislation in Finland

A Step in the right direction for the New Year


The International Blue Cross wants to congratulate Finland among some of the first countries for achieving evidence-based legislation for alcohol marketing. Although the best model would have been to limit the advertising to solely product information, this is a major step to protect consumers.

Over the years the situation of alcohol advertising in Finland has changed as follows:

1977: all alcohol advertising was banned

1995: new alcohol act enforced as Finland joined EU including

  • continued ban on strong alcohol
  • Advertising mild alcoholic beverages permitted with creating restrictions regarding protecting minors and not linking it with social or sexual success.

2008: Time restrictions on TV (21.00-07.00) including

  • Cinema ads banned apart from x rated shows
  • Price discount advertising on media ( unless valid over 2 months) and volume discounts banned (eg. buy one get one free)

As a result of fast growing use of social media marketing and games targeting especially young people new regulations were needed.


  • No more alcohol advertising in public places indoor or outdoor, with exception of retail and on-premise sites and public events or similar.
  • Time restriction on TV 22-07:00 also applied to radio
  • All advertising and sales promotion activities are prohibited if they:
  1. Involve taking part in a game, lottery or contest or,
  2. Involve any textual or visual content produced by consumers or content which is intended to be shared by consumers

Evidence base for these restrictions is vast and some of the references can be found from these publications:

The Finnish regulations:

Is the EU drinking its future away?

Eurocare Press Release


Brussels, Belgium 27th November, 2014

Public health community calls on the European Institutions to take action on Europe’s problem with alcohol

Today over 300 representatives from Health Ministries, the European Institutions, public health experts and concerned stakeholders have gathered in Brussels to call on the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his team to take actions to prevent and reduce the burden of alcohol on European societies.

The European Union has the highest rate of alcohol consumption in the world (10.2 litres of pure alcohol per person) and alcohol was responsible for 1 in 7 male deaths and 1 in 13 female deaths in the group aged 15–64 years, meaning that 120,000 people died prematurely in 2013.

Alcohol is the third main contributory factor to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), it is a cause of some 60 different types of disease, including many cancers, liver disease, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal conditions. There is a clear causal link between alcohol and cancer – 10% cancers in men and 3% of total cancers in women are directly attributable to alcohol.

Beyond its health consequences, the harmful use of alcohol inflicts significant social and economic losses. In total, the societal costs of alcohol in the EU for 2010 were an estimated €155.8 billion.

‘The problems of alcohol-related harm can be seen throughout European societies. A comprehensive approach to dealing with these harms could save many thousands of lives and constitutes an investment into the sustainability our health systems.’ said Mariann Skar from the European Alcohol Policy Alliance, organisers of the 6th European Alcohol Policy Conference.

Investing in alcohol-prevention.

The European Union Alcohol Strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol related harm was designed for the period 2006-2012. The conference will highlight that the absence of an up-to-date EU Alcohol Strategy based on the latest evidence and in line with societal changes (for example, the move of alcohol advertising from traditional to new media) poses a real threat to reducing alcohol related harm in Europe.

The two day conference will highlight the broad spectrum of harm caused by alcohol to individual health, others around them and to society as a whole. The 6th European Alcohol Policy conference will also serve as platform to launch the European Alcohol Policy Alliance’s recommendations document for future EU Alcohol Strategy and a Call for action for such a strategy.

The conference is touching on some of the most contentious areas in terms of regulating alcohol:

  • Why should alcoholic beverages be exempted from the obligation to list their ingredients, unlike all other food and drink products?
  • What impact could international treaties such as TTIP have on the ability of Member States to implement effective alcohol policies?
  • Should the price of alcoholic beverages be adjusted to deal with their harms, such as a minimum unit price or taxation?
  • How should the online marketing of alcohol be regulated effectively?

These and many other issues of how best to reduce harm done by alcohol will be discussed over the coming two days in Brussels.

Facts and figures

Alcohol is a major health challenge in the EU - here are some numbers


Did you know?

  • Alcohol is the 3rd top risk factor in Europe for ill health and NCDs such as cancer and cardiovascular disease
  • Alcohol is a toxic substance in terms of its direct and indirect effects on a wide range of body organs and a cause of some 60 diseases
  • 12 million people in the EU are dependent on alcohol
  • Around 9 million children in the EU are living with one parent addicted to alcohol
  • 1 of 4 road fatalities in EU are due to alcohol; in 2010 nearly 31,000 Europeans were killed on the roads of which 25% were related to alcohol
  • Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to birth defects and developmental disorders. It may cause the unborn child physical, behavioural and learning disabilities
  • The social cost attributable to alcohol is 155,8 billion Euro yearly (was third is now first bullet point)
  • Alcohol is the leading risk for ill-health and premature death for the core of the working age population (25-59 year) (was first is now second bullet point)
  • Alcohol is responsible 1 in 7 male deaths and 1 in 13 female deaths in the group aged 15–64 years, resulting in approximately 120 000 premature deaths

Giving a Neighbour a Helping Hand!

Blue Cross Denmark is reaching out to Greenland with its campaign ”neighbouring help”

It is clear that some Greenlanders have heavy alcohol consumption. It is a tradition in Greenland that each monthly payday is dedicated to a party where alcohol plays a huge role.

From a child’s perspective these days are filled with fear, neglect and unfortunately also sexual abuse. One in three children in Greenland lives with an alcoholic relative while growing up, as one in three girls are sexually abused. Sexual abuse of children is often committed during drunkenness.

Cooperation across the Atlantic

Blue Cross Denmark is therefore reaching out to these children from difficult backgrounds by means of the Danish campaign ”neighbouring help” that has been translated into Greenlandic. This campaign was targeted toward children in Denmark between 2012 and 2013. The “neighbouring help” campaign provided information to the Danish population regarding how to help a child that lives with an alcoholic parent. Blue Cross Denmark has been working on translating the material for the campaign into Greenlandic for a year.

Four Blue Cross employees in Greenland

Four employees from Blue Cross Denmark travelled to Greenland in October 2014. One of them was the general secretary Christian Bjerre. The main objective was to present the campaign to Blue Cross in Greenland and to educate Blue Cross members and experts to help children in Greenland that lives with alcoholic parents. Greenland’s Minister of Health, Steen Lynge, expressed his opinion regarding the campaign:

"We are satisfied with Blue Cross’ initiative, because it supports our goal that children should not experience their relatives being affected by alcohol or drugs. The prevention of alcohol abuse and drugs are one of our high priorities in our public health programme.”

Brochures and website

Apart from the courses in Greenland, the cooperation also includes production of 4,000 brochures, a large number of fliers and posters. The brochures are now distributed to both associations and public authorities in Greenland. A website is also available with useful tips on how to provide help for children. Visit and choose between Danish and Greenlandic on the website.

For more information on how to support the project in Greenland, visit Blue Cross’ website onøt.

Important Facts:

  • Currently, one in three Greenlandic children live in a family with alcohol problems or have lived for a period in a family where the mother or the mother’s partner have had an unhealthy consumption of alcohol.
  • One in three Greenlandic children have at least once searched for other places to sleep due to alcohol problems at home.
  • 31 percent of the children, who live in a family with alcohol problems, have been victims of violence comparing with 11 percent of children that live in families without alcohol problems.
  • picture: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

IBC welcomes a new member

Blue Cross Paraguay is now part of IBC´s global network


The International Blue Cross is pleased to announce its newest member organization, Blue Cross Paraguay, which we warmly welcome into our global network!

Last month Blue Cross Paraguay celebrated the launch of its newly planned therapeutic community called “El Camino,” or “The Way” in the capital, Asuncion. Once completed, the center will offer space for 60 full-time residents seeking holistic treatment services for alcohol and/or drug addiction. Colleagues from Blue Cross Brazil are offering support to El Camino by training leaders, volunteers and collaborators of Blue Cross Paraguay - another good example of knowledge and skills transfer within the Blue Cross network.

Colleagues from Blue Cross Brazil, which holds expertise in the field of Self Help as a means for cost-effective treatment and aftercare, have undertaken efforts to support the development and expansion of this new organization. Self help groups in Paraguay are established in partnership with the Mennonite Churches and offer people harmed by addiction a safe environment where they can seek mutual support in the recovery process. They are an excellent means of service provision to people affected by alcohol and drug-related harm, including family members who suffer the stigma, shame and other associated effects of their loves ones addiction.

The leader of the new organization is P. Felix Duarte Dupont, who previously coordinated prevention projects with inmates in prisons in Paraguay – another social work initiative of the Churchill Mennonites.

Anne Babb Visits Chile

IBC General Secretary meeting government officials in Chile


This week the General Secterary of IFBC, Anne Babb, is in Chile where she met with Government officials ahead of the drafting of a New National Drug Strategy. At the meeting, convened by the National Bureau of Religious Affairs of the General Secretariat of the Presidency, Mrs. Babb highlighted the Blue Cross' work supporting people affected by alcohol and drugs.

Drug and Alcohol Policy in Brazil – A Lasting Impact!

Brazilian Minister of Justice, Eduardo Cardoso, is discussing drup policies with Blue Cross representatives


On 17.09.2014 representatives from the Blue Cross Barzil participated in an audience with the Brazilian Minister of Justice, Eduardo Cardoso, on the subject of Drug Policy in Brazil. Under the umbrella of the National Federation of Therapeutic Communities – CONFENACT - Egon Schlüter (Project Coordinator – BC Brazil) and Rolf Hartmann (President BC Brazil and IFBC Board Member) represented the Blue Cross Brazil in a discussion about a new policy that will recognize Therapeutic Communities as organizations that are eligible to receive social benefits. They proposed an amendment of the legal framework to facilitate access to Certificates of Charitable Entities i.e. subsidies from the government of up to 50% of the cost of operations. Additionally, it was requested of the government to revise the budget for 2015 to include support for projects in the area of prevention, support network of family and social reintegration of addicts. To date these communities serve as many as 7000 patients, with a view to increase to 10,000 next year.

According to the Brazilian National Drug Report 2009 an estimated 12.3% of the adult urban population in Brazil suffers from dependence on alcohol, making alcohol misuse a significant public health issue. Blue Cross Brazil is providing treatment and aftercare services mainly in the three Southern states of Santa Catarina, Paranà and Rio Grande do Sul, where alcohol and drug use is most prevalent. The organization collaborates with 12 affiliated treatment centers that employ the therapeutic community approach and provide stationary treatment to more than 1500 clients per year.

New Treatment Center

Blue Cross Faroe Islands has opened a new treatment center


Friday 19th September was an important day for Blue Cross Faroe Islands, marking the opening of a new treatment center. Some 500 people took part in the opening ceremony were speeches were given by the Minister of Health, the president for Blue Cross Faroe Islands among others.

The Centre is currently 800 square meters and has 14 single rooms including facilities for offices, group rooms, staffrooms, and a kitchen. The total cost of the project was 1.73 million EUR.

To see photos, please click here.

Sensitizing children for the dangers of alcohol

When Should You Talk to Your Child About Alcohol?


As parents we have far more influence than we think and talking honestly about alcohol and drugs can have a real impact. In fact, research has shown that kids who have conversations with their parents and learn a lot about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50% less likely to use alcohol and drugs than those who don’t have such conversations.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach but we must do our part! Follow our weekly quizes on Facebook to get relevant information about alcohol and drug use: Here are the answers to last week's quiz and be sure to LIKE us to learn more!

Weekly Facebook Quiz (19.09.2014) Answers:

(1) Between the ages of 8-10 children's perception of alcohol is usually still negative - True.

Children’s attitudes to alcohol change as they get older. It’s important to talk to your child about alcohol sooner rather than later, and to keep having conversations with them as they grow up.

(2) Do not encourage your children to make their own decisions regarding alcohol - set strict guidelines and insist they adhere to them - False.

Often times children choose to go down a certain path simply to spite their parents. This is why when dealing with sensitive issues like alcohol, it is best to give your children the facts, set boundaries and agree on rules together. Children will then understand the way the rules were established and why, and be more likely to follow them. Be sure to follow-up by positively encouraging them to make decisions. By helping your child learn how to weigh up the pros and cons of other scenarios, like which secondary school to go to or whether to travel home alone, you can prepare them for making their own decisions about alcohol.

(3) Providing alcohol to your children, even under the best intentions i.e to introduce alcohol in a safe, supervised environment with the aim of moderating a child’s drinking - is a good idea - False.

Teenagers whose parents supply alcohol in early adolescence are three times as likely to be drinking full serves of alcohol at age 16 as children in families that do not supply alcohol, a major new study from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW Australia has found. Read more about the study here.

For an tips on how to talk to your child in the right way at the right time, click here.

New! Global status report on alcohol and health 2014

A comprehensive perspective on the global, regional and country consumption of alcohol


6 June 2014
The Global status report on alcohol and health 2014 presents a comprehensive perspective on the global, regional and country consumption of alcohol, patterns of drinking, health consequences and policy responses in Member States. It represents a continuing effort by the World Health Organization (WHO) to support Member States in collecting information in order to assist them in their efforts to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, and its health and social consequences. The report was launched in Geneva on Monday 12 May 2014 during the second meeting of the global network of WHO national counterparts for implementation of the global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.

To view the report, click here.

Our Partner Organisation Forut Presents Its New ADD Website

Alcohl, Drugs and Development - Forut´s new website as "gateway" for information


21 May 2014

"Your gateway to information about alcohol and drugs as a development issue."

With this slogan FORUT Norway has launched its newly designed ADD website, which is a specialised site focusing on substance abuse as an obstacle to development.

The website offers the latest news on alcohol policies around the world and new research and documentation, methods and materials and links to relevant NGOs and websites.

Have a look under:

Prevention Differently with Sanna Lüdi

"Engagement Across Borders" with skicross World Cup winner Sanna Lüdi


15 April 2014. The International Blue Cross successfully held its first big prevention event on Saturday, 12 April, in the Bernese shopping centre “Shoppyland”. Sanna Lüdi – skicross World Cup winner – was present and gave her full support to the worldwide engagement of the International Blue Cross.

Provided with a funny looking pair of goggles, Sanna tries to find her way around some obstacles posed on the ground, open a baby gate, and do an easy drawing on a flipchart. Why is it that this sporty, muscular girl hardly succeeds in fulfilling these basic and simple tasks? It is because the goggles she wears simulate 1.5‰ of alcohol blood content, and that is what makes her lose control over her movements and gestures. Sanna laughs and says: “It felt as my hands were far away from my body and made out of rubber. I had no control!”

Sanna, the International Blue Cross ambassador, motivated children and youth to do the event's “goggle course” just as she did - so they could experience what drunkenness could feel like. One of the children commented: “If I were on my bike, I would have driven straight into the next wall ...” What if it were not a bike, but a car ... ?

Event participants very much appreciated the dance shows of the hip hop groups “roundabout” of the local Blue Cross which were an important part of the event. They also enjoyed the concert of “Anshelle”, an excellent Bernese Rock-Pop-Band that also supports the engagement of the International Blue Cross.

Christine Aebli, Communications and Media Officer at the International Blue Cross, concludes: “The event allowed us to draw public attention to the necessity of comprehensive prevention programmes and alcohol policies around the world. In developing countries alcohol policies are either inexistent or not strictly implemented. But especially in these countries, poverty and unemployment push people into alcohol and drug abuse. Our engagement and daily work at the International Blue Cross aims to offer children and youth a new outlook on life – without alcohol and drugs.”

Berner Zeitung, 14. April 2014 - Mit 1.5 Promille unterwegs ...

International Workshop on Substance Abuse

Reflections by Anne Babb, General Secretary of the International Blue Cross


In November 2013, the International Blue Cross held a high-level, international sharing and learning workshop on evidence based and best practices in prevention and treatment of substance abuse on the one hand, and, on the other hand, on best practices in leadership and management of non profit organisations. Anne Babb, General Secretary of the International Blue Cross, shares below some reflections on "leadership and life-skills" inspired by the event.

Life-skills and Good Leadership

As leaders we are constantly assessed by people we are in contact with. We are in a position of power, and people want to see that we have the skills to make use of this position in a fruitful way. The questions that come to my mind are: How do we develop our skills during our busy management life? Is there a danger that we lack some skills?

I have just returned from a workshop in Namibia where leaders and practitioners from over 30 countries gathered to discuss some organisational key themes. This contribution is a reflection on “life skills” – as one of the key services delivered in many Blue Cross organisations around the world, aiming to help young people develop skills to avoid substance abuse. The workshop made me reflect on how these skills are transferrable to our everyday life as leaders.

How have I developed my interpersonal skills to lead my staff and to interact with people in various situations? What has shaped my values so that they are sound and based on Christian ethics? How have I acquired the problem solving and decision making skills that take my organisation forward in a positive direction? Where have I developed the confidence to take up my role as a leader?

I think these skills cannot be fully learned through academic study or professional training. It needs practice, learning by doing, reflecting and even learning from mistakes. It takes courage to put yourself in line and stretch to edges of our familiar comfort zone. Life skills interventions teach essential knowledge and understanding, skills and attitudes to deal effectively with the everyday challenges we face throughout our lives. Such interventions focus on positive behaviour and promoting the health and well-being of children, adolescents and adults alike. Some of these skills are inherent while many we learn from our family, friends or society.

When I recruit staff I often receive applications for people with very similar educational background. The challenge is to find employees who are committed, have skills for effective communication, right values, positive attitude towards work and skills to create positive relationships at the work place. This is often the deciding factor- what kind of life skills they are able to present to others.

I face the same challenge for myself. I need to maintain and further develop my life skills to manage the International Blue Cross in changing situations. I have started to think that senior managers need to pay a lot of attention to their life skills, otherwise the organisation lacks networking, communication, good people management, and the important issues are not dealt with.

Leading people needs good self-confidence; you need to trust that different people can achieve the same results through different ways. At the same time you need the skills for assertiveness to intervene positively when necessary. You need to be able to make decisions considering the bigger picture rather than quick fix easy solutions. It is important to be able to think creatively to find solutions for sudden or complex situations. In all of these processes you need to be self aware so that as a leader you remember that you are representing the organisation and sometimes it means that decisions that you make are not always beneficial to yourself. You need empathy to be able to listen, by seeking understanding when listening to others. Then there is the important side of being able to look after yourself. When you are committed to your work there is a danger that you do not want to be aware of issues that create stress and therefore in a long run you might burn out. A healthy work-life balance is important but also the understanding of the capacity of the organisation. Leaders need to know when there is the need to work the extra hours and when it is appropriate to rest. They need to know when the team can stretch a little and when it is time to settle and run more routine operations. Positive communication and conflict resolution skills need a lot of attention in leadership positions and I believe that these issues become more and more important and these skills need a lifelong learning and reflection process – constantly accepting that we can always learn more in these fields.

Life skills are expressed through values, knowledge, and capabilities and I want to challenge us to reflect on which life skills I should pay more attention to in order to work in my position as a leader even more effectively. I need to be responsible for my skills and seek support when I am working within a field where I am less skilled. Please click here to find a list with examples of life-skills, and you might want to reflect on what kind of skills you have in these areas?

It is Advent Season and time to prepare for Christmas. We can start afresh every day and prepare to learn something new. Let’s keep learning skills for life!

Alcohol Policy in Action

The Global Alcohol Policy Conference united experts in Seoul, South Korea


23 October 2013

By Anne Babb, General Secretary of the International Blue Cross.

The Global Alcohol Policy Conference (GAPC) met in Seoul, South Korea from 7 – 9 October, 2013. There were 850 participants from 55 countries including parliamentarians, government officials, and civil society members. There was a great commitment to emphasise the implementation of alcohol policies based on WHO’s report on Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol. “We must not treat alcohol as an individual problem any longer, but rather as a threat to the foundation of our society”.

We at the Blue Cross have a key role in supporting people who suffer from addiction and must use our understanding of addiction combined with our understanding of policy to influence a positive global change. It is a proven fact that society must establish and maintain effective alcohol policy in each country to make a sustainable change. The most effective methods to protect people from the dangers associated with alcohol include implementing price controls, taxation, limiting the availability of alcohol, and curbing alcohol marketing/advertising. Each of these actions are cost effective, have a significant positive impact on health and are feasible to implement.

Blue Cross organisations can take part in this implementation by encouraging local action to increase public awareness as well as being closely in touch with decision makers, community leaders and politicians. Without these critical policy structures even the best treatment services will not succeed.

This conference made me reflect on the current treatment climate. Many countries have moved from in-patient treatment to community-based outpatient services. The message from Governments around the world has been that out-patient treatment is a more cost effective way of providing treatment. However, I would argue that in the current climate, individuals are too vulnerable in outpatient alcohol treatment services. When alcohol is readily available around the clock, prices are very low and marketing is very aggressive, the safety net is too weak. I think money is wasted due to a lack of implementing good alcohol policies. The alcohol industry clearly declares that the problem does not lie within the availability, marketing and pricing of its products but rather that addiction problems arise from the individual and their choices. NO! We need better structures in place in order to enable the effective services we provide to succeed more effectively.

To this end, we have published together with the Norwegian Blue Cross ( and FORUT ( a Training Manual to support evidence-based alcohol policy development in low income settings. The handbook is available on our website.

I want to challenge all of our members from 43 countries to take action. We are the experts on field of addiction and often know the right people to get the message heard so let’s demand the change!

You can find Seoul declaration that I have signed together with GAPC participants here.

To access the Alcohol Policy Training Manual, click here.

“The Potter’s House"

A new Blue Cross treatment center is opening its doors to patients in Romania


13 August 2013

Blue Cross Romania starts new treatment centre “The Potter’s House”, allowing treatment of more than 150 alcohol and/or drug dependent people from across the country per year.

Blue Cross Romania’s work focus lies on treatment of addicted people. Until recently, it ran two treatment centres: one for men and one for women. This August, a new centre, funded by the International Blue Cross, opened its door. The manager of the men’s centre, Dr Holger Lux, explains: “We have run our activities in the treatment centre “House Nazareth” – 22 beds – over the past 20 years. There is a long waiting list at “House Nazareth”. We therefore wished to expand the rehabilitation capacity by building an additional centre: The Potter’s House.”

Blue Cross Romania officially inaugurated its new treatment centre in July 2013. Many guests, including friends, current and former patients and their families visited the new centre, which offers treatment facilities for 30 clients. The name of the centre – Potter’s House – refers to a touching Blue Cross tale by Roald Hansen, wearing the same name. The inauguration party comprised an ecumenical service in the Lutheran Church, a musical event and, interestingly, a round table held by former patients.

Blue Cross Romania was brought back into activity in 1990, after the end of communism. In the past two decades, more than 1,500 addicted men received treatment at “House Nazareth”.

Alcohol Advertising - the Facts

A Critical Review of PR and Marketing Strategies of the Alcohol Industry


A Critical Review of PR and Marketing Strategies of the Alcohol Industry

4 July 2013. The report analyses the logic and mecansims that lie behind the PR and marketing strategies of the alcohol industry. It highlights the necessity of resisting these strategies aimed at increasing the market share of the alcohol industry. Because we, at the Blue Cross, know that alcohol is no "ordinary commodity". It accounts for more than 1 in 25 of global deaths a year, and individual, family, and social afflictions aside, abusive alcohol consumption costs society simply billions in helath and socio-economic costs.

The report is a coproduction of Blue Cross Norway and the International Blue Cross.

Picture: Photo by Smit Patel on Unsplash

Self-Help in the Blue Cross Network - A Global Priotity

Anne Babb outlines the importance of the self-help concept within Blue Cross


14 May 2013

The UK/European Symposium on Addictive Disorders (UKESAD) held its 10th annual conference in London in May 2013, bringing together 60 world class experts addiction recovery, who shared their knowledge and expertise with attendees at over 40 presentations. IFBC General Secretary Anne Babb provided a brief summary of the recent Self-Help survey conducted by IFBC.

IFBC sees Self-Help groups as an integral part of services delivery in the Blue Cross movement. It has proven to be an invaluable resource for recovery and empowerment. As these groups can be facilitated by laypersons, volunteers and/or former addicts and operated on an informal basis, it is a cost effective and sustainable method of providing services to those affected by addiction, and it is proven produce good results. Official service provision is not enough when a person is the process of change. Mutual support is vital, as it is sustainable in the longer-term.

The concept of Self-Help groups are already being implemented by some Blue Cross member organizations (MO’s) around the world, but there are many countries that would greatly benefit from this concept.

The survey of Member Organizations world-wide clearly identified the need to establish Self-Help groups where they do not already exist as a priority. Overall there were some themes/needs that stood out:

  1. Increase the number of groups for existing providers
  2. Establishing new Self-Help providers and groups
  3. Promote recognition of the Self-Help concept in society

Generally speaking, there is a need for greater knowledge transfer between professionals and mutual aid providers. This communication needs to be encouraged to promote Self-Help as an essential part of a person’s change process.

The results of the survey clearly identified specific regional priorities. For example, Africa has a greater need for knowledge and material whereas Europe has a greater need for recognition and acceptance of Self-Help groups by society. All regions share the need for recruiting and motivating volunteers & group leaders.

In an effort to promote the Self-Help concept as a global priority for the Blue Cross, IFBC plans to support its Member Organizations in addressing these needs through advocacy, training and networking in 2013 and beyond.

picture: Noah Buscher, unsplash

The International Blue Cross Welcomes its New President and Board!

October 16, 2012

The International Blue Cross (IBC) is proud to announce that Dr. Albert Moukolo has been elected president at its General Assembly on 12 October,2012, in Sibiu, Romania.

Dr. Moukolo, Swiss citizen of Congolese origin, has extensive professional experience in the field of addiction. As an expert and consultant in alcohol addiction he worked, amongst others, for the University Polyclinic of Lausanne, the WHO in Geneva, and the UNDCP in Vienna. Today, he is employed as an external collaborator at the Institute of Public Health in Geneva and at the University of Lausanne. He holds degrees in Clinical Psychology and Public Health and a doctorate in Psychology.

Having suffered indirectly from addiction-related harm during his childhood in Brazzaville, Dr. Moukolo decided to join the Congolese Blue Cross as a young man. He soon became its Secretary General and has been committed to the Blue Cross ever since.

The new president states: “I am thrilled to take up this important position and look forward to contribute to implementing the new and pathbreaking strategy that has been voted by the 2012 General Assembly last week in Sibiu, Romania. As one of the few international organisations in the field of prevention and treatment of alcohol-related harm, we have a particular responsibility to address the sad realities created by addiction amongst families and communities around the world.”

In addition to its new president, the IBC is also pleased to announce the election of Hjalmar Hansen, MSc (Econ.), from Faroe Islands, as vice-president. Other newly elected Network Committee (board) members include: Jana Kupkova, Social Services Quality Manager, from the Czech Republic; Rakesh Mittal, Chartered Accountant & Lawyer, from India; Ingalill Söderberg, journalist, from Sweden; and Fanjanirinia Rasolomanana, Programme Manager, from Madagascar.

Other Network Committee members continuing their terms are Rolf Hartmann, Secretary General of Blue Cross Brazil; Reinhard Jahn, Secretary General of Blue Cross Germany, Representative of the Blue Cross Youth Associations; Matsepo Letlola, Director of the Thaba-Bosiu Treatment Centre, Maseru, Lesotho; Daniel Lüscher, Director of Blue Cross Bern (Swiss Cantonal Society), Switzerland; Holger Lux, MD, Director Blue Cross Rehabilitation-Centres for Addicted Men, Romania; and Timo Mutalahti, Lawyer, Member of the Board of Finish Blue Ribbon, Finland.

Southern African Alcohol Policy Forum

Civil Society Representatives Contribute Significantly Towards the Reinforcement of Evidence-based Alcohol Policies in Southern Africa.


6-8 November 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

Blue Cross Norway, FORUT, and The Global Alcohol Policy Alliance will organise an international alcohol policy forum, drawing participants from relevant civil society organisations in the Southern African region. The purpose of the forum is to promote the WHO strategies on evidence-based alcohol policies in the Southern African Region.


In 2010, the World Health Organization adopted a Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol. Almost at the same time, the WHO Regional Committee for Africa endorsed the Reduction of the harmful use of alcohol: A strategy for the WHO African Region. In these documents, ambitions are set forth to prevent and reduce the harmful use of alcohol.


By drawing together NGOs and researchers in the alcohol policy field, the forum aims to increase the knowledge of evidence-based alcohol policies and to support the implementation of the global and regional alcohol policy strategies. We will focus on building capacity and knowledge on these policies and and on strengthening regional networks in order to effectively counteract policy initiatives of the alcohol industry. Furthermore, we will share our experiences, and focus on learning from each other’s work.

Working Methods

  • Input from experts
  • Interactive group sessions,
  • Presentations from country representatives
  • Round table discussions

Participants will be requested to prepare themselves for the forum by collecting information in their home countries on issues related to the various programme items.

Time and place

November 6th – 8th, Mannah Executive Lodge and Conference Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa


Please confirm your participation to Mr. Øystein Bakke:

Registered participants will receive updated information before the event.

We look forward to receive your confirmation before 25th of October.

Interview with Mr Peter Abetz, Member of Parliament of West Australia

IBC talked to Peter Abetz about his search for the best prevention and treatment models

International Blue Cross: Peter, at the beginning of this year, you and your colleagues from the Education and Health Standing Committee of the West Australian parliament were on a fact-finding trip through Europe on the adequacy of prevention and treatment services for alcohol and illicit drug problems. Could you briefly explain the context and purpose of this trip?

Peter Abetz: The consumption of illicit drugs and alcohol is a major problem in Western Australia. The Education and Health Standing Committee of the West Australian parliament was authorised by the parliament to do a comprehensive inquiry into treatment services available for people with these problems and also to look at what could be done to prevent people from starting to use drugs and alcohol. The purpose of our trip was to learn from the European experience and see if any of their successful programmes could be adapted to our situation. Likewise, we wanted to see what has failed in Europe, so that we don’t make the same mistakes!

IBC: We had the honour of meeting you in Geneva on 3rd February 2011 for a hearing on our experience in evidence-based practices in prevention and treatment. Could you share with us your main impressions about our work and the key points you wish to emphasise with regard to the discussion we had?

P. A.: As the Blue Cross does not have a presence in Australia, I really knew nothing about its work before coming to Geneva. What impressed me about the Blue Cross is that it is a “bottom up” umbrella organisation, formed by people doing the work, at the grass roots level. I was also very impressed by its holistic approach, to the issue of prevention and rehabilitation and its recognition that the family is such a foundational issue in protecting children from drug addiction. From my own experience as a pastor for 25 years, I knew that a strong family is probably the greatest protection that parents can give their offspring against heading into the drug culture. I was also impressed by the fact that Blue Cross has the courage to put its focus on helping people to live a drug free lifestyle, rather than just “harm minimisation”. I also found Mr Lux’s emphasis on the “therapeutic chain” a very helpful concept.

IBC: In your perception, what distinguishes the International Blue Cross from other health development organisations you have met in the course of your journey?

P. A.: What disturbs me about many organisations working with people who are addicted to drugs, is that they view addiction as an incurable condition and therefore no real attempt is made to help addicts move to a drug free life style. Indeed some organisations tell them that there is no way forward other than to use drugs in a way that minimises the harm. I found Blue Cross was refreshingly different in that it has a clear objective of helping people to become drug free, which also sends a message to addicts that there is hope! Another factor that sets Blue Cross apart is its recognition of the importance of a healthy family in preventing drug addiction and the fact that there is often a spiritual dimension that also needs to be addressed. Through its Christian roots, Blue Cross is well positioned to do this.

IBC: Today we know that alcohol consumption is the world’s third largest risk factor for disease and disability (WHO, 2011). What are your personal thoughts about this alarming reality? And, in your eyes, what should be the main role of international organisations like the Blue Cross?

P. A.: I believe addiction is like an unfenced cliff. For too long we have stationed ambulances and well-trained staff at the bottom of the cliff to try and help those who have fallen. But I believe that government policy is the fence at the top of the cliff that is so badly needed. Sound government policy that restricts access to the cliff – such as reducing availability and sound education programmes – is absolutely essential; and I think Blue Cross is fighting addiction at every level – being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff and calling on governments to build the best fence at the top of the cliff! That is a very valuable role to play. Governments must have the political will to put in place laws and regulations which limit the availability of alcohol, to enforce those laws, and to fund appropriate educational programmes. Without groups like the Blue Cross, governments often shy away from making the hard decisions.

IBC: Peter: One final question, as a result of your trip – what do you believe you have learnt that has been of particular value when thinking about future policy debates on this subject in your own region of West Australia?

P. A.: I think our trip has impressed on me several things. I have been surprised at how much one can learn from a 2 week trip visiting various countries and talking with people who work in the same field. One thing that this trip has also shown me is that there is overwhelming evidence that the way forward in reducing drug addiction needs to be a multi-pronged approach. Education on its own is not very effective, but when coupled with sound government policy it is a powerful weapon. We need to teach our children to say NO to drugs and alcohol, but governments must also put in place appropriate policies, such as limiting availability, as I said earlier. Further, policies that help families to be strong, stable and cohesive units in society, particularly in the younger years of a child’s life must be enacted and implemented.

Lesotho: Rehabilitation Centre turns 20

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ‘Thaba Bosiu’ Center

It was on the 2nd September, 1991, when the Thaba Bosiu Rehabilitation Centre in Lesotho started operating and opened its doors to scores of alcohol and drug dependent people to help address their specific rehabilitation and support needs. At the 20th anniversary, celebrated on the 3rd October 2011, over a hundred friends, well-wishers and former clients gathered in Maseru to commemorate two decades of dedicated and committed work.

Those who had the privilege to be at the 'birthday bash’, were treated to a varied and highly interesting programme in honour of the 20 years of existence of the Centre. The programme comprised not just the customary speeches from government representatives but also cultural activities and – last but certainly not least – a great variety of delicious local dishes!

Thaba Bosiu Rehabilitation Centre has, in the past years, helped innumerable people rediscover a life free of addiction. The strength of the Centre lies in the unparalleled quality of its treatment services nationwide and its unique therapy approach which incorporates the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions in all its care. This success story is the result of a fruitful collaboration between Blue Cross Lesotho and Norway.

The establishment of a drug rehabilitation centre in Lesotho was a dire necessity, given the complete absence of private or public therapy possibilities for addicted people and their close ones in Lesotho in the early 90s. Consequently, when Blue Cross Lesotho – drawing on the support, expertise, and experience of Blue Cross Norway – opened its Rehabilitation Centre in 1991, it helped close a gap in a country severely affected by substance misuse.

Ms Matsepo Letlola, current director of the Centre, states: “We are very grateful to see the steady growth in the impact our Centre’s activities are having. They make a real difference in the lives of our clients. And we are proud to report that since January 2005, the Centre is fully government funded, a clear sign of the commitment from the government and the centre's centrality to the country's substance misuse management strategy.”

Global alcohol companies in Africa

A new WHO report concludes that private companies use unethical marketing instruments


23 June 2011 - International alcohol companies misbehave in the African continent. The dominating and unethical character of alcohol marketing of these companies in African countries strengthens the urgent need to increase legislation on alcohol advertising in the African continent. That is one of the main conclusions of a new report published by the World Health Organization (WHO).

An independent monitoring exercise

The report is the first product of cooperation between EUCAM the European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing, STAP the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy and the WHO, called MAMPA, Monitoring Alcohol Marketing in Africa. The report gives an overview of alcohol marketing practices and regulations in Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda.

Global alcohol producers misbehave in Africa

Since the alcohol market is saturated in Europe and other western countries, global alcohol producers invest more and more money into marketing the product in developing countries. Marketing practices that are seen as unacceptable in Europe are used widely in Africa by well-known players such as Carlsberg, Anheuser-Busch, and Heineken. The WHO report shows that company rules of alcohol producers based in Europe are not adhered to when marketing the product in the African countries monitored.

According to most self-regulation codes in Europe and most company rules, alcohol advertisements may not be placed within 500 feet of schools (e.g. Diageo Code of Conduct) or when more than 30 percent of the expected spectators is underaged (e.g. AB InBev Code and European Self-regulation Code). Nevertheless, the WHO report shows illustrations of alcohol billboards in front of elementary schools, secondary schools, and playgrounds.

According to EU law (AVMSD 2007) and most self-regulation codes (e.g. European self-regulation code art 3.1) alcohol marketing communications should not depict images, impressions, symbols, music, characters (either real or fictitious) that primarily appeal to persons below 18 years-old. Nevertheless, global alcohol companies use cartoons to market their product on African television.

Connections between alcohol and wealth are used commonly in alcohol advertisements, e.g. Nigeria’s Star Big Life campaign markets the message that drinking Star beer is the beginning of the ‘big life’. The latter is especially disturbing when realizing that drinking alcohol is one of the indicators that predict poverty.

The full report can be found online at the website of WHO African Region.

Source: Eucam News,

Too Young To Drink

On September 9, the 9th day of the 9th month, at 9:09am, on the occasion of the International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Day, the International Blue Cross supports EUFASD (European FASD Alliance) in Too Young To Drink, an international communication campaign conceived by Fabrica, the Benetton group’s communication research center, to raise awareness of the risks of FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders). FASD causes a range of problems through prenatal exposure to alcohol, which can include birth defects, learning disorders, behavioral problems, and mental illness. Studies in the United States have shown that about 1% of children are affected by FASD, studies in Europe show at least 2%, and even higher numbers in some areas, for example in South Africa. However, FASD is 100% preventable - by avoiding alcohol during pregnancy.

Nearly 60 organizations in 30 countries have joined to promote Too Young To Drink: today, at 9:09 in the morning, local time, banners and posters will show an image depicting a real newborn baby in a bottle of an alcoholic drink, as a visual warning of the risks of drinking in pregnancy.

The major aims of the Too Young To Drink campaign are the following:

  • To raise awareness of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy among the child-bearing aged population and in the community;
  • To spread accurate, research-based information on the risks of using alcohol during pregnancy;
  • to empower women to make their own choices, and encourage friends, families and the society to support alcohol-free pregnancies.

This campaign will provide partners with an evaluation of outcomes.

“As the adoptive mother of three children with FASD, I see the daily struggles they face in school and in their social relations. I am working to prevent this ever happening to another child”, says Diane Black, Chair of the European FASD Alliance who has been advised on the campaign of Local Health Authority of Treviso (Veneto Region, Italy) for the social marketing and health communication strategy, based on the experience of the project “Mamma Beve Bimbo Beve”.

“FASD is an international problem and requires an international solution. So far, France is the only European country that provides a warning message on all alcoholic beverages. The European Commission is perfectly positioned to take action and support Member States in raising awareness about this problem. We hope the new Commissioner for Health will move the issue quickly forward”, says Mariann Skar, Secretary General European Alcohol Policy Alliance.

This project story is related to the project Blue Cross Norway