Transforming despair into hope
It is not uncommon for refugees and asylum seekers to use drugs to suppress trauma experienced during conflict in their home countries and fleeing from the conflict. Mirah/khat, nsunko, cigarettes and alcohol the common drugs and substances being abused.
To address this challenge, AAH Zambia is holding alcohol and drug abuse sensitization sessions. The goal of the sessions is not only to create an open forum for discussions on substance abuse, but to also sensitize refugees on the different drugs, to evaluate their knowledge on illegal drugs in Zambia, to inform them of the consequences of trafficking and abuse of drugs at refugee centers and to identify strategies for preventing drug abuse. Additionally, there are discussions on the relationship between drug and substance abuse and gender-based violence and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
To date four sessions have been held – on 14 September in Chipata compound, on 10 September and 1 October at Makeni Transit Centre in Lusaka and on 25 October at Easy Way Academy School in Kanyama compound.
English and Swahili are the languages of instruction during the sessions. To improve participation and to enhance learning, facilitators use visual aids such as a short video clip and pictures to demonstrate the consequences of drug abuse. Officials from the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) are at hand to answer questions from participants and to provide information about support and counselling for drug addicts. Music, dance, drama and poems are used in sensitization sessions in schools.
As a result of the sensitization meetings 186 people have been reached – 55 asylum seekers and refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Burundi and Rwanda at Makeni Transit Centre and 121 (5 teachers, 3 members of the Parents-Teachers Association, 85 Grade 1-7 students and 28 baby class students) at Easy Way Academy School. In addition, 6 people volunteered to work with AAH-I to create awareness in schools and among the local communities and serve as role models in the community to ensure project sustainability. The school management of Easy Way Academy School have committed to setting up an anti-drugs club in the coming academic calendar. In August 2018 AAH Zambia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Drug Commission in Zambia to upskill AAH-I staff for implementation of a drug prevention program within the existing capacities.
“My friends and I have been using marijuana during our stay at Mayukwayukwa refugee camp. I thought that marijuana would help me to deal with the issues I am facing as a refugee, to forget my problems and to sleep better. The counselling I have received at these meetings has helped me to understand the side effects of marijuana use. I want to change and become a better person,” says 17-year-old Andrew*. “We hope to continue sharing this knowledge on drug abuse and offering support to these displaced populations,” concludes AAH-I’s Project Manager Ruth Enabu.
*Not his real name