The menace of drug abuse has become a global concern as citizens particularly young people in several countries including both developed and developing nations are negatively impacted. Nigeria has witnessed rising epidemic of substance abuse as a result of the poor economic situation that has given rise to increasing youth unemployment, political thuggery, ethnoreligious conflicts that have in turn exacerbated the consumption of and reliance on illicit drugs. Reports by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has placed Kano as the State most affected by drug abuse in the country, and some analysts have indicated that between 50% to 70% of the youth in the state abuse drugs. Abuse of drugs either orally or through injections has resulted in dire socioeconomic consequences particularly the health of the abusers. Hence, Society for Family Health, Nigeria has intervened among People Who Inject Drugs (PWID) to prevent HIV transmission that may occur as a result of sharing of needles among users. SFH Nigeria, Kano Territory has used the Global Fund New Funding Model for HIV as a platform to prevent HIV, create access to HIV and STI treatment, support linkage to rehabilitation services and facilitate access to economic and educational empowerment for PWID in Kano State.
Furthermore, in recognition of the devastating effect of drug abuse on member countries, the United Nations General Assembly convened a special session to adopt a comprehensive set of operational recommendations to address and counter the problem. Similarly, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has intensified its advocacy and public education on drug trafficking and abuse including the commemoration of the 2017 World Drug Day. The theme for the year is ‘Listen First’; a call to listen to children and youth as the first step to help them grow healthy and safe. In Nigeria, the NDLEA provided leadership in the activities to mark the Day. SFH Kano Territory collaborated with Kano State command of NDLEA, the Office of the Special Adviser to the Executive Governor on Drugs and other stakeholders including PWID to celebrate the Day in Kano. The event which was conducted on 4th July 2017 in Kano was undertaken to educate the public on the consequences of drug abuse, draw attention of the authorities and community to the plight of PWID and other drug abusers, highlight the successes recorded in the interventions among PWID and get buy-in of stakeholders to expand access, get media involvement in the fight against drug abuse and its consequences and boost the self-esteem and involvement of the PWID by creating an interface between them and the public.
In view of these, the state team planned and executed several activities. We mobilized over one hundred PWID and several corps members that participated in the rally to commemorate the World Drug Day. Given the desire of the PWID to participate in the event in order to highlight their problems to the society, they volunteered the money that was used to print T-shirts that they used during the rally. More than ten media houses attended the briefing that was chaired by the NDLEA Commandant with contribution by the SFH Territorial Manager. Participants were also conducted round the seizures made by the NDLEA as well as its rehabilitation and detention centres. On the Day, the State Steering Committee on Drug Abuse was inaugurated with membership from security and government agencies, academia, media, community and civil society. Given the impact of the PWID interventions in the state in terms of HIV prevention and linkage to rehabilitation and empowerment programs for the PWID, SFH and the implementing CSO, Taimako Support Group (TSG) were recognized by NDLEA and the State Government and hence both organizations were given membership of the newly inaugurated Steering Committee. In addition, the State Commandant of the NDLEA has promised to continue to support the PWID intervention including providing access to rehabilitation and citing the successes of the project in relevant public fora. The activities had active participation of the Special Adviser to the State Governor on Drugs, NDLEA State Commander, Deputy Commandant General of Hisbah, Team Leads of partner organizations among other participants.