Alcohol kills 3.3m people annually, WHO report

NAIROBI, KENYA: After an illicit brew killed more than 90 people and left 160 others hospitalised in five counties, a new World Health Organisation (WHO) report indicates that alcohol has overtaken the world’s leading killer diseases, killing 3.3 million people annually worldwide.

The UN health agency reports that a recent survey showed that alcohol kills more people than HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and violence combined.

According to the report released in Geneva yesterday, one in every 20 deaths globally are caused by alcohol-induced violence and abuse, drink driving, and a multitude of diseases and disorders annually.

 “This actually translates into one death every 10 seconds,” Shekhar Saxena, who heads WHO’s mental health and substance abuse department, said in Geneva. In 2012 alone, alcohol killed 3.3 million people, equivalent to 5.9 per cent of global deaths (7.6 per cent for men and four per cent for women).

In comparison, HIV/Aids is responsible for 2.8 per cent, tuberculosis causes 1.7 per cent of deaths and violence is responsible for just 0.9 per cent, the study showed.


More people in countries where alcohol consumption has traditionally been low such as China and India are also increasingly taking up the habit as their wealth increases, it said.

Drinking is linked to more than 200 health conditions, including liver cirrhosis and some cancers. About a third of all alcohol related deaths are caused by cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Meanwhile, Kenya Alcohol Control and Policy Alliance has urged the Government to change tack in the fight against illicit brews.

The alliance is proposing a public health approach towards the fight against illegal liquor. “The role of controlling illicit brews has been left to the provincial administration yet this is a national issue that requires immediate attention of the Government. Firing of chiefs and absolving themselves from blame will not make this problem go away,” said Alliance chairman Vincent Kimosop.

He criticised the Ministry of Health, saying a recent move to absolve themselves from blame is unfortunate because the Ministry is mandated with ensuring public health.

Report by James Mbaka, Ngari Gichuki, Isaac Meso and AFP

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WHO Alcohol kills