East Africa’s drugs pandemic

December 20, 2016

Health experts in East Africa have warned the region the size of the illegal drugs problem is reaching pandemic proportions. And security agencies admits the war on drugs is unwinnable largely because of underfunding, under training of security agencies and the monster called corruption.It comes as various blogs in the region revealed growing police concerns about the drugs pandemic sweeping Kenyan coast, prompting authorities to issue a chilling warning to all parents in the coastal region about the drugs plague. “It is clear that an entire generation of coastal youth is at risk, threatening the future prosperity of those communities,” one of people familiar with the issue told your blogger. As a security consultant in that region, he revealed gangs and overseas criminal syndicates were taking advantage of the highly addictive aspect of herion and ice to actively hook thousands of young coast youths.Security agencies have vowed they would fight the drugs scourge as fiercely as humanly possible. “It’s not a war Kenya will ever finally win Contador Harrison,” he added.“The war on drugs is a war you are going to lose.“You may not ever win it, but you’ve always got to fight it.” Another health and drug policy consultant also warned overdose deaths from ice were increasing and were now second only to heroin. He also fears that many ice users in coastal Kenya would move from smoking ice to injecting it, putting them at risk of getting blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. He told me how he had been working extensively on the ice issue throughout East Africa, speaking with thousands of frontline service workers as well as concerned community members but he couldn’t avoid telling me how corrupt security agencies officials and politicians are raking in millions from the drugs trade.

He added that based on his work throughout the communities in Kilifi, Malindi, Kwale and Mombasa it is clear that methamphetamine can affect people and their families quickly, and in many physical, psychological, emotional and financial ways. Talking regularly to grass roots health services right across the coastal Kenya region, and there have been worrying signs that ice use is growing. Only a small percentage of ambulance attendances for drug overdose end up in a trip to hospital. More than 90 percent of methamphetamine callouts do not, so as a drug, it can have little impact on the emergency health system than heroin. The number of overdose deaths involving methamphetamine in Mombasa alone has risen from 22 in 2010 to an average of 100 in 2015, now second to heroin as an illicit drug contributing to overdose deaths in the popular tourist destination. Tackling methamphetamine requires a large investment, with additional focus on reducing the harm amongst those using it. In his views, Kenya has lost drugs war because of applying simplistic fear-based campaigns that have backfired. To him, individuals and families must have factual information and far more support. Collaboration is required, including with police, health and community services at grassroots community levels especially in Lamu, Kilifi, Malindi and Mombasa. He fears that many coastal youths who’ve started out smoking crystal meth will transition to injection, particularly if the price of it goes up. This has enormous implications for blood-borne virus transmission. The stories on marijuana, ice are a real issue in coastal Kenya communities and sadly, doesn’t always make it to the national issue of the day because of politics obsessed Kenyan media, but for a lot of people it’s a more immediate challenge. Ordinary Kenyans have raised it with authorities because it goes to the safety of their kids. It goes to crime on Coastal streets.

Drugs hooks people and it hurts them, family members get hooked and they have got themselves into terrible strife.There is this whole culture here of young East Africans who are getting beefed up muscles and using image enhancing drugs. When they buy steroids, for example, they come into contact with organised crime in gyms and they start to cultivate relationships with criminals and get into heavier commodities like marijuana and crystal meth.It is also a belief among some young East Africans that cool drugs help them dance all night at clubs and supposedly improved their sexual performance. What they don’t think about are its many negatives. You only need to look at a picture of someone before they became a user and then after and there’s a whole change in their face.West African and Chinese organised crime gangs are the main suppliers of significant amounts of amphetamines to Kenya and wider East African region for domestic consumption and transhipment to other African markets.A copper working with international police told your blogger that he had never before experienced an illegal drug problem as bad as the one his organisation was currently facing in Sub Saharan Africa. This is because of the highly addictive nature of the drugs being sold in Africa and consequences of the violent behaviour it can often induce.The drugs in the market do not discriminate and are addicting the children of the rich and the poor alike. The violent behaviour often associated with drug use also leads to increases in family violence, road trauma, and other violent crimes. One in five drug users arrested by police committed a violent crime.Kenyan Police seizures of drugs have increased 39 per cent in 2015 and 26 per cent in 2014.The International Police seeks to target high level traffickers and organisers through joint law enforcement activity, which in addition to traditional drug task force and clandestine laboratory squad, also includes an undercover force which disrupts crime at the coastal region which is a major shipping route, and the joint organised crime detection force which incorporates the anti-gangs task force. In conclusion, the illegal drugs problem requires a whole of government and whole of society response. East African educators, health experts, police, community leaders, and importantly parents all have a major role to play.

Contador Harrison