Govt declares war on drug abuse

Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Dr Jenfan Muswere

As the battle against drug abuse intensifies, Cabinet has agreed that all idle provincial Covid-19 isolation centres will be converted into rehabilitation centres, more resources will be mobilised and Dr Agnes Mahomva will be appointed the national coordinator of the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Drug and Substance Abuse.

Speaking last night after the second Cabinet meeting since President Mnangagwa was sworn in for a second term, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Dr Jenfan Muswere said Cabinet has agreed to put in place stringent measures to strengthen the anti-drug and substance abuse programme.

“The Cabinet agreed that two pillars dealing with legal and policy issues and finance and resource mobilisation will be constituted. All idle provincial Covid-19 isolation facilities will be converted into multi-sectoral drug rehabilitation centres,” he said. “Dr Agnes Mahomva will be appointed as the national coordinator of Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Drugs and Substance Abuse,” said Minister Muswere

Some of the measures are to urgently resume capacitation of sub-national structures including traditional leaders and religious group leadership.

“All citizens are urged to participate in the efforts at all levels as consultations are happening across the country; and members of the media have a shared responsibility to identify the networks distributors and inform the nation on the types, effects and bases of the criminal networks of drug peddlers within the communities and expose such criminals. All media organisations should also accelerate anti-drug abuse messages across all communities,” said the minister.

Cabinet received and approved the report by the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Drug and Substance Abuse, as presented by the Minister of Defence and Chairperson of the National Committee on Drugs and Substance Abuse, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri

The National Committee has been frequently meeting in light of the observed increases in cases of drug and substance abuse.

The meetings cover reports from the pillars over the period July 7 to September 23 this year.

The pillars of the National Committee are: the supply reduction, demand reduction, harm reduction, treatment and rehabilitation, psycho-social support and community re-integration, and the media and information pillars.

Under the supply reduction pillar, raids and operations against drug suppliers, dealers and peddlers were regularly conducted and a total of 5 367 offenders were arrested between July 7 to September 23.

This represented a sharp increase on the 4 328 arrests made for the whole year of 2022. A total of 81 bases, where drug users and peddlers converge to sell and consume drugs, were destroyed during the period.

Four ZRP drugs and narcotics units had been established at the Beitbridge, Victoria Falls, Chirundu, and Mutare border posts to curtail the inflow of drugs.

“Inland posts have also been established at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo and Victoria Falls international airports. New technologies like drones are also being used to monitor the country’s borders in addition to the traditional surveillance methods in order to reduce smuggling and trafficking of drugs,” he said.

Interventions by the Liquor Licencing Board, had reduced unlicenced liquor outlets, vendors and peddlers as well as licenced outlets operating outside the agreed terms and conditions.

These interventions included inspections of premises, investigations of public complaints and cancellation of licences.

The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe had cancelled seven licences for wholesalers and deregistered one.

Going forward, Minister Muswere said Cabinet agreed to enact the relevant legislation for the establishment of a Drug Elimination Agency to govern and coordinate all national activities on drug and substance abuse.

“Regarding the drug reduction pillar, the following measures have been undertaken to reduce the desire for illegal and illicit drugs: awareness raising and public education, peer-to-peer support, guidance and counselling, community dialogues, exhibitions, and livelihood skills and entrepreneurship capacity building programmes,” he said.

In terms of awareness programmes, a total of 715 515 people were reached through various activities including higher and tertiary education institutions mandatory awareness campaigns, and engaging artists and sportspersons as ambassadors.

The National Committee, he said, is developing standard information dissemination tools that will be used by the sub-national structures, traditional leadership and religious organisations in conscientising families and communities.

“Guidance and counselling sessions as well as maintenance of a safe school environment continue to be a priority for Government,” said the minister.

Under the harm reduction, treatment and rehabilitation pillar, drug rehabilitation services were provided in Government and private health institutions.

A total of 1 093 new patients were attended to at mental health institutions.

Of special note is that the first stand alone Government drug rehabilitation centre was opened at Chipadze Detox Centre on July 24.

For psycho-social support and community re-integration, he said there are two outpatient rehabilitation and psycho-social support centres in Bulawayo and in Harare.

Other activities under the pillar include parenting programmes, online psycho-social support services, and research and evidence gathering.

Herald

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