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A ticking time bomb

By | July 27th 2011

By Dann Okoth

Kenya is sitting on drugs' time bomb, experts have warned.

Dr Frank Njenga, head of National Agency for the Campaign Against Drugs (Nacada) says unless the drugs menace in the country is tackled soon, it could wipe out the gains made so far and negate prospects contained in the new Constitution.

“Clearly, we are sitting on a ticking time bomb. Something has got to be done and done urgently,” Njenga says.

“It is high time the Government declared the drugs problem a national disaster in order for the right focus and resources to be directed at the problem.”

The medic, however, notes that behavioural professionals who are equipped with the knowledge and skills to help addicts were helpless in the face of runaway drug trafficking and official reluctance to rein in the culprits.

“As professionals, we are trained to help those hooked on drugs. However, we are completely helpless to tackle the proliferation of the drugs because that is a security matter that needs to be handled by law enforcement agencies,” he says.

In Kenya, drug abuse is widespread and substance abuse is found across all social groups — amidst poor social and institutional structures.
Currently, at the Coast Province alone, an estimated 30,000 youth are hooked to heroine, according to Citizen Against Child and Drug Abuse (Cicada).

Rehab centres

“The saddest thing is that we only have three rehabilitation centres in the whole region to cope with the numbers,” says Cicada Director Farouk Saad.
“At the Coast General Hospital lack of funds has meant that the hospital cannot meet the high demand for rehabilitation services,” he adds.

Although there are two other private rehabs including the Muslim Education Welfare (Mewa) and Reach out Rehab Centre, each can accommodate only 71 patients at a time.

But with the private rehabs charging anything between Sh15-20,000 per month in fees, fewer addicts are able to access rehabilitation services for the recommended three to four months.

“The tragedy is drug addiction costs money and by the time one considers quitting they will already have spent all they had on the drugs,” observes Saad.

“We are now trying to reach out to the addicts within the communities through awareness outreach programmes to sensitise the youth against drug use,” he says.

But even then, they are confronted by another challenge in the emergence of new HIV/Aids infections.
“Nearly 21 per cent of the 30,000 addicts use needles to inject themselves presenting another dilemma in HIV prevalence,” he says.

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