The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was marked on June 26. Although victory against the drug problem remains elusive, the authorities and other players who are unrelenting in the battle deserve commendation for their efforts.
According to a report by Richard Chesang published in the International Journal of Scientific and Technology Research, increase in drug abuse among the youth remains a worrying trend. Just two days after the observance of the day, Igembe North deputy county commissioner Malack Namai and colleagues were reported to have netted more than 600 cartons of illicit liquor in a lorry hidden in Ngaya forest. This is only what the public sees.
But what happens to those struggling to get free of addiction? While the authorities must continue with spirited combat against the vice, it is important that they, too, undertake training on the best practices in dealing with victims of abuse, who are mainly youth.
According to data by UN Regional Information Centre for Western Europe, around 210 million people, or 4.8 per cent of the population aged 15-64, took illicit substances at least once in 2010. In the same way parents think it is teachers’ responsibility to ensure their children are free from drug abuse, the same notion may be prevalent in security circles.
Are they mandated to only apprehend drug traffickers and abusers without offering psycho-social support to victims? One has to ask about Kenyan police: “How well prepared are they to handle this menace effectively in the long run?” There are two aspects of the vice: the criminal and psycho-social angle. Are the security agencies well equipped to deal with both aspects?
Chesang states in his report of 2013 that, in Nairobi alone, 50 per cent of students have at one time experimented with drugs. Half of these are now regular users. The problem of drug abuse and illicit trafficking will continue, unless handled using a double-pronged approach.
In some places, security forces have worked with neighbourhood watches, said to be very successful in eliminating drug dealing. Watch members should work with the police. Like CCTV cameras, posting signs and publicising the presence of a neighbourhood watch, makes perpetrators know the area is under observation. —The author is Senior Communications and Media Officer, World Vision, Kenya.