Harare – From 13 to 16 September 2011, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Harare, Zimbabwe Republic Police Drugs Department, Ministry of Health and a group of health-related NGOs visited schools within Harare in an exciting educational awareness programme in commemoration of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
Targeting secondary level pupils in 18 high and low density-based schools, the educational awareness campaign aimed to alert youth to the dangers of illegal human and drug trafficking. Furthermore, the campaign aimed to correct misconceptions about drugs and related substances sold illegally on the streets. In the long term, the Campaign aimed to curb illegal drug abuse and their trafficking.
Officially launching the three-day Campaign on 12 September, Health and Child Welfare Minister Henry Madzorera acknowledged that the problem of drug abuse and illicit trafficking is growing rapidly among youth and high school students in Zimbabwe. These drugs include cannabis or mbanje as it is locally known, ecstasy, heroine, Mandrax, cocaine. Also included in the list of abused substances are some cough mixtures, inhalants, tobacco and alcohol.
“The most abused drug in Zimbabwe is Cannabis. The problem results from it being grown locally and also smuggled in large quantities from neighbouring countries for both local consumption and further smuggled out to other countries where there are lucrative markets,” Minister Madzorera said. He explained that the people behind the illicit drug trafficking and abuse are syndicates involving both locals and foreign rich nationals.
The statement of the UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon was read by Custodia Mandlhate, WHO Country Representative in Zimbabwe. In his statement, the Secretary General said that drug trafficking had ‘transformed in recent years into a major threat to the health and security of people and regions.
“Because the threat is so urgent, I recently established a Task Force to develop a UN system-wide strategy to coordinate and strengthen our response to illicit drugs and organized crime by building them into all UN peacekeeping, peace building, security, development and disarmament activities. In this way the United Nations can integrate the fight against drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime into the global security and development agenda,” he said.
The educational awareness campaign reached the following schools: Alain Wilson School, Harare High School, Prince Edward Boys School, Dzivarasekwa 1 High School, Dzivarasekwa 2 High School, Mbare high School, Ellis Robbins High School, Domboramwari high School Tafara 1 High School, Tynwald High School, Highfield Mhuriimwe High School, Mukai High School and Glen Norah 1 High School.
During the Campaign, UNIC gave the background to the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. UNIC explained that the Day was set aside by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 42/112 of 7 December 1987, to be observed as an expression of the UN’s determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse. UNIC’s presentation was followed by a ‘talk’ from the Ministry of Health who highlighted some of the effects of drug abuse. Effects highlighted include memory loss, impaired judgment, increased inability to grasp abstract thoughts, aggressive and violent behaviours, delusions, hallucinations, lessened ability to solve problems and distortions in the sense of time. The ZRP Drug Unit Police officers then spoke about the legal side of drug abuse, highlighting the measures that the police can take against offenders.
The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is commemorated annually on 26 June. This year in Harare, the commemoration was postponed due to unforeseen circumstances.