AS ZAMBIA grapples with the growing challenge of substance abuse amongst young people, an international conference with delegates from over 56 countries also battling similar problems have convened at the Mulungushi International Centre for a three-day meeting.
The Africa Union-supported conference being held under the theme; ‘Securing a better future for youth, women and children: building momentum towards the Africa we want’ kicked off this morning and will end on Friday.
The meeting is the first of its kind.
Officiating the event was Vice-President, Mutale Nalumango empasised on the need for evidential efforts in ensuring that the youths in society are free from abusing psychotic drugs such as alcohol, Marijuana, inhalants, and cigarettes as such substances have had a great fall and negative impact in the Zambian society.
The Vice-President called on double and intensive efforts to be applied in tackling issues associated with drug abuse, such as controlling access to drugs through legislation of appropriate laws, combining drug and alcohol policies including what time alcohol should be sold.
She further said that there was need for the Zambian Ministry of Health to collaborate with sister ministries on the continent and other relevant stake holders on means of how social services can be strengthened by employing a multi-sectoral approach at family, society, community, country and world level.
Speaking at the same event, host Health Minister, Sylvia Masebo said the main purpose of the conference is for countries and stake holders to learn from each other’s experiences, and build their works upon them.
Masebo said youth, women and children have continuously contributed to the high numbers of drag abuse in Zambia, Africa and the world, a vice she said the ministry is progressively fighting to curb.
She said there was need to revise the implementation frameworks and act collectively and effectively against the pandemic of drug abuse as the statistics of abuse and addiction result to social, economical and health consequences to the country which have compelled the ministry to act diligently.
The minister said the Conference could have not come at a better time than now when Zambia intends to consciously contribute to the issues of drug abuse in the continent.
“We will fail as citizens of Africa and the world, if we do not manage to act collectively and decisively against this pandemic, as this conference offers us a great opportunity to do so,” she said.
And Youth Forum representative, Aliyu Mukhtar Usman noted that the role played by young people in addressing substance related problems in the word can not be overstated as they stand at the cross roads of societal well-being and the challenges posed by substance use, making it imperative to recognise the unique perspective, energy and potential that the youth bring to the table.
Usman highlighted that the role of the youth should extend beyond rhetoric, translating youthful energy into practical solutions by embracing innovations, fostering intergenerational collaborations, prioritising education, and actively participating in policy advocacy.
Meanwhile, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, H.E Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there is no help without mental health, and therefore there is a serious concern on the need to globally implement measures that induce in the use of psychoactive drugs and alcohol by all ages and gender.
In Zambia, statistics of substance abuse probe that alcohol is the most abused substance by the youth, including school going pupils. The sniffing of substances such as petrol and paraffin, and the smoking of marijuana is mostly common with street kids. The high abuse of these substances mostly exposes the girl child to sexual exploitation, therefore, leading to the continued increasing number of child pregnancies and spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as STI’s and HIV.
By Buumba Mwitumwa