NGO tasks government, stakeholders to invest in harm reduction strategies

Novel Association for Youth Advocacy (NAYA) has called on stakeholders to invest in harm reduction strategy in the country.

NAYA, a network of youth-led and youth-serving organisations is working to create an enabling environment for improved health & well-being of youngs persons.

While making the calls, the association tasked government and community leaders to prioritize harm reduction and preventive measures among onset of drug use and its associated harms among People Who Use Drugs (PWUD).

The plea was made during a dialogue session with stakeholders from government, security agencies, civil society, religious bodies, traditional institutions and the media in commemoration of World Drug Day with the “theme “The Evidence is Clear: Invest in Prevention” in Kuje Area Council.

NAYA with funding support from YouthRise Nigeria carried out the “WE ARE PEOPLE” campaign which resonates with this year’s theme to raise awareness on the importance of treating PWUD with dignity, empathy and respect as well as providing alternatives to punishment, prioritizing prevention, and leading with compassion.

During an interaction after the session, the National Coordintator of NAYA, Ms Rosemary Adejoh-Adaji, said that “WE ARE PEOPLE” campaign is aimed at reducing stigma and human rights violations against PWUD.

According to her, the current campaign focuses on adopting harm reduction programs as a strategy to reducing drug-related harm and amplify the global call on the need to treat drug use as a public health issue rather than the current focus criminal justice approach.

Ms Adejoh-Adaji noted further that access to services for PWUD., challenges of illicit drug and issues faced by People Who Use Drugs,

Ms called on the stakeholders to design and fund intervention and services that are tailored towards the needs of PWUD.

She said, “Nigeria has continued to grapple with a growing drug epidemic over the last decade with its drug use prevalence rate of 14.4% being 3 times higher than the global average. Drug use being a developmental challenge has public health and socio-economic implications, particularly among People Who Use Drugs (PWUD).

“The National Drug Use Survey conducted in 2018 documented that around 376,000 people aged 15-64 needed treatment for drug use disorders, while access and cost of treatment are limited.

” Also, the burden of HIV among the injecting population with an HIV prevalence of 10.9% which is higher among the female group remains a challenge in achieving the global target of ending AIDS by 2030.

” The situation is exacerbated by punitive laws that criminalize drug use and societal stigma against PWUD that drives them underground, therefore, making them difficult to reach with available services.

“Efforts towards decriminalization of drug use and the current ‘’War Against Drug Abuse (WADA)’’ have not yielded the desired result due to the focus on enforcement rather than a balanced and evidence-based approach. Hence, this year’s theme further underscores the need preventive approach that is based on proven models that are cost-effective.

“NAYA seized opportunity of the dialogue to unveil 10 Adolescent and Youth Drug Abuse Prevention Advocates. They were ealier equipped with skills and knowledge to become change agents for promotion of harm reduction strategies and reduction of stigma and discrimination including advocacy and peer-to-peer counselling among drug users and community members.”