I have just read the Rwanda drug abuse story as covered in Rwanda New Times newspaper 18th December 2011 and found it very revealing.
First of all, the research and data is useful to establish the magnitude of the problem. Many times African governments rarely do so. The result also shows the population which is affected and targeted interventions to help and reduce the problem will be established.
The report elaborates on the consequences on the youth as well as on nation (addiction, treatment) and warns of what may happen if further actions are not undertaken. We also note efforts will cover many players both in government and NGOS as well private sector which promotes a multi-sectoral effort because drug use issues cut across many sectors in the country.
Fighting drug use is everyone’s responsibility especially by addressing both supply and demand factors. Gardens of marijuana must be destroyed and other enforcement activities need to be strengthened. Farmers should be assisted to grow other alternative crops like maize and vegetables and the communities should be educated on the consequences of drugs and other alternative income sources generating activities which are safe.
Demand for drugs is also created by many reasons including peer pressure, idleness, unemployment, stress and addiction. Thus all factors that cause youth at school, universities must be explored and solutions which majorly come from the affected groups tend to be more meaningful than those designed by expertise.
The youth involvement is critical in addressing drugs within their environment. Programs improving recreation and sports, vocational skills and employment in general tend to work and reduce many factors leading to abuse; many times these activities also work as conduit for training peer counselors to positive influence drug abuse reduction again use of clubs and training in skills that build self esteem and resistance drugs are needed key. Many African governments need to learn from the Rwanda experience and acknowledge the problem, study it an undertake activities to control substance abuse.
Rwanda has been very supportive of actions towards reduce alcohol abuse globally and Africa is severely being damaged by the alcohol industry and most returns are being pushed back because of alcohol use which needs a regulated environment.
Rwanda at home have managed to raise the minimum drinking age to 21years and minors are protected from using alcohol and bars open later in afternoon because people must work. Reducing bar distribution/density and rising taxes on alcohol and tobacco are one of the best actions which appear to have an impact and some percentage be used in a fund to support activities to prevent further spread of consequences of drug use.