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Lack of prioritisation escalating Tanzania`s drug addiction scourge

18th July 2011
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Drug addict: Drug addiction is a rapidly escalating scourge, with a visible impact in many places, especially Zanzibar. Since the West has failed to retard drug use among the youth, what is the prognosis for Tanzania?

Greetings for the coming week, a hectic one for me, with so much to do before I leave for UK, plus moving house at the same time, with all the chaos that entails.

Locals here can move home with their entire domestic contents in the back of a pick up….sofa set, bedding, mattresses, a few cooking pots, etc., a liberating economy of scale I’ll try to achieve some day!

I’m over stressed with no remedy, but a guerrilla fighter I once knew, was calmed by doing his ironing!. Sleep could help, but finding that difficult, and jealous of those who don’t, the story of Mr. Stephen Wassira pictured in a Swahili paper, while snoozing in the Bunge last week, caught my attention.

He is apparently, ‘The State Minister in the President’s Office, (Civil Society Relations and Co-ordination)’….an interesting job description, I wonder what it means?.

Anyway, angry with the newspaper, he said, it “published inflammatory and sensational news, and has a foreign leaning”. Well the British press love images of M.P’s sleeping on the job, so he could be right, but let’s be charitable and assume he was simply exhausted in the service of his country….. just remembered though, he says it was flue medicine, which made him doze off……that’s my remedy, dazed, (or possibly crazed), after three nights without sleep.... when I’ve penned this, I’m off to get a double dosage!

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A yellowing newspaper cutting I found among old files when having a clear out, seems to back recent news of unlikely organisations such as religious bodies with connections to the drugs trade.

The Daily News clip from January l996, reports that foreign experts assisting the government, said the address of a container in which five tons of drugs were impounded at Ubungo, was for Dodoma, but the P.O. box number used, was that of a Jamat in Dar es Salaam. Some Clearing and Forwarding agencies were also involved and certain names listed.

Yet 15 years later, as the President announced last month he was forming a new taskforce to halt the drugs menace, few (if any?) big players have been netted.

Given the massive societal implications of the drugs scourge here, it’s long been underplayed. In a country like Tanzania, where many projects are donor driven and funded, there’s been a lack of prioritisation by the international community towards this visibly escalating menace across the country, especially in Zanzibar.

How else to explain past preferences of continual funding for gender, or female mutilation issues (amongst other favoured ones) whilst ignoring one with the far reaching consequences of drug addiction, which can swell not only the crime figures, but catastrophically the aids statistics also.

The short sighted might say becoming a drug addict is a question of choice, and not deserving of official action, public funding, or sympathy. However, the same could be said of HIV, if contracted via promiscuous sex acts, and lung or liver cancer through excessive smoking or alcohol abuse.

Fortunately, to curtail the horror of AIDS, positive action has taken preference over moral judgements, which should be directed to the drugs blight also, given the inter-relationship between the two.

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A couple of years ago, a newspaper proclaiming ”Ex-drug users cry for jobs and treatment”, recounted how addicts who gave a list of drug dealers to the government, didn’t benefit from their actions as expected.

A drug counseller said they’d helped the nation in revealing names, and should have received assistance in return.

……but should we be surprised at the reneging of official obligation?

Given the many worthy calls on the ‘public purse’, this topic might not be sympathetically received by the citizens…..until you quantify the very many un-worthy luxury calls it services.

Over the years, the formation of various drug bodies, commissions etc., seemed mostly designed to detect and control the inflow of narcotics into the country. Limited funding had gone to either retard the usage, or help the users, with scant provision for rehabilitation.

Visitors to Muhimbili psychiatric unit are usually full of admiration for staff who cope with the disturbed and often dangerous drug abuse patients, similarly, at Mirembe Hospital, and Isanga Prison Hospital in Dodoma, where committed staff face challenging odds.

Statistics are logged on AIDS deaths, but who is keeping count of the nation’s youths who die through drug abuse?...probably no-one, though it seems drug barons have long received protection and consideration from officialdom, in contrast to their misguided customers!

Well I made a rule that the last column I’ll be writing for some time, should be clever, witty and thought provoking, so you readers won’t forget me.

….but since I make the rules, I can break them…..and just have, in 800 boring words saying nothing much! Anyway, I’ll be thinking of you all in Tanzania, in your hours of darkness…. or should that be days…..weeks…..months?!

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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