Drug awareness and mobilization week in Mali and Senegal

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For the 28th edition of Senegal's Drug awareness and mobilization week ("Semaine de sensibilisation et de mobilisation contre la drogue"), UNODC and its governmental and civil society partners organized a series of events during the month of June 2015. A drug incineration operation was conducted in the town of Ouakam on 26 June, a date declared as the " International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking" by the UN. The Interior Minister of Senegal, Mr Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo, as well as the General Director of the National Police, Ms Anna Sémou Faye, were among the attendees of the destruction ceremony.

Interior Minister of Senegal, Mr Diallo, launching the drug incineration ceremony
Interior Minister of Senegal, Mr Diallo, launching the drug incineration ceremony

During the incineration, almost 2 tons of drugs (mostly cannabis, cocaine and heroin) intercepted at Dakar airport and during road patrols were destroyed. UNODC Regional Representative in West and Central Africa, Mr Pierre Lapaque, presented the findings of the World Drug Report 2015, released today by UNODC. The report examines the latest developments regarding global drug markets, focusing particularly on regional production and consumption trends as well as the evolution of trafficking routes. The 2015 edition of the Report also emphasizes alternative development as a means to phase out illegal crops while strengthening the institutional framework.

UNODC Regional Representative Mr Pierre Lapaque, with the Senegalese Interior Minister and UNODC experts
UNODC Regional Representative Mr Pierre Lapaque, with the Senegalese Interior Minister and UNODC experts

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement declaring that "in full compliance with human rights standards and norms, the United Nations advocates a careful re-balancing of the international policy on controlled drugs. We must consider alternatives to criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs and focus criminal justice efforts on those involved in supply. We should increase the focus on public health, prevention, treatment and care, as well as on economic, social and cultural strategies."

In this context, Mr Lapaque and his team visited the Fann Hospital's Dakar Center for Addictions (Centre de Prise en Charge Intégrée des Addictions de Dakar, referred to hereafter as CEPIAD) on 25 June. Inaugurated in December 2014 by the Senegalese Health Minister, CEPIAD operates within the country's Strategic Plan for the Fight against AIDS and focuses on drug use reduction. Originally designed for intraveinous drug users (considered the most at risk regarding infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C), the center also caters for people addicted to other psychoactive substances.

Mr Lapaque and his team during the CEPIAD visit
Mr Lapaque and his team during the CEPIAD visit

CEPIAD's activities include free access to prevention, care and treatment, but also family mediation, legal and administrative assistance, and social and professional reintegration efforts. The center also offers a needle exchange program and methadone treatments for heroin addicts. Currently the first and only health facility specializing in addictions in West Africa, CEPIAD also conducts research activities and provides training modules to caretakers.

Paintings by CEPIAD patients following an art therapy workshop
Paintings by CEPIAD patients following an art therapy workshop

Earlier this month, UNODC also participated in the launch ceremony of the "Drug Awareness and Mobilization Week" at the Jacques Chirac Drug Information and Awareness Center ( Centre de Sensibilisation et d'Information sur les Drogues Jacques Chirac, referred to hereafter as CSID) in the town of Thiaroye. CSID offers different support services to drug users but also organizes a wide range of activities for the local population ranging from workshops to information sessions and sport events. As such, a carpentry workshop and a gym were built within the center and made available to the Thiaroye residents.

Carpentry workshop at CSID J. Chirac
Carpentry workshop at CSID J. Chirac

Mr Babacar Diouf, representing UNODC at the opening ceremony, delivered a speech (available in French here) highlighting the importance of a general mobilization against drugs, particularly through educational programs targeting the youth and focusing on the development of social skills. Furthermore, he highlighted several initiatives that UNODC supports in Senegal such as the abovementioned CEPIAD. Mr Abdel Kader Thiaw, coordinator at CSID, called for a capacity strengthening of local actors, pointing out the efficiency of their drug prevention and information efforts among the youth.

Mr Babacar Diouf, UNODC expert, delivering a speech at CSID J. Chirac
Mr Babacar Diouf, UNODC expert, delivering a speech at CSID J. Chirac
Demonstration by the Senegalese Customs' Canine Unit at CSID J. Chirac
Demonstration by the Senegalese Customs' Canine Unit at CSID J. Chirac

Meanwhile in Mali, a series of events were organized on 26 June to draw attention to the illicit trafficking and drug consumption patterns in the gold mining and road transportation industries. Workers in both categories have a high degree of exposure to drugs due to their stressful and physically demanding working conditions. As such, the International Day against Drugs saw the Minister of Security and Civil Protection in Mali coordinate a number of activities, with support from UNODC, ranging from awareness campaigns to public debates and sports events.

Volunteers in Mali
Volunteers in Mali

UNODC, working with regional and national level partners, supports countries in West and Central Africa in their drug use prevention, treatment and re-integration efforts. UNODC also helps its member states implement evidence-based programs and policies.

Photo credits: Marco Fayet