Zimbabwe Launches Five-Year Strategy to Combat Youth Drug Abuse

National Initiative Targets Demand Reduction in the Battle Against Substance Abuse Among Young People

by Adenike Adeodun

The Ministry of Youth Empowerment and Development, along with Silveira House and the University of Zimbabwe, are actively leading a five-year strategy to combat drug and substance abuse among youth. They announced this demand-reduction-focused initiative at a strategic planning event in Harare.

Blazio Manobo, the Ministry’s Director for Strategic Policy Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation, underscored the strategy’s aim to tackle the increasing number of drug abuse cases by 2028. The plan will involve demand reduction policies and a comprehensive national survey to understand the impact, prevalence, and challenges of drug and substance abuse in Zimbabwe.

This strategy, which is based on recent research by the Ministry and Silveira House, targets marijuana, illicit alcohol, and crystal meth use. Alois Madhekeni, Project Coordinator at Silveira House, highlighted the growing trend of substance abuse, especially among men, youths, and urban residents, irrespective of their educational or employment status.

Research shows that 37% of people under 35 are abusing drugs, with marijuana and illicit alcohol as the most common substances. This high rate of abuse is straining psychiatric units in major hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo, highlighting flaws in the current drug rehabilitation methods.

According to a report by Newsday, Madhekeni challenges the norm of sending drug abusers to mental health institutions, proposing the creation of drop-in centers for drug reduction services instead. He cites peer pressure, family disintegration, inadequate knowledge about drug effects, and stress as key drivers of substance abuse among youth.

The strategy focuses on educating parents and increasing awareness among young people. This follows a 2021 World Health Organisation report that identified Zimbabwe as having one of Africa’s highest rates of binge drinking and drug abuse among 15- to 19-year-olds.

In April, the Zimbabwean Cabinet established the National Committee on Drug and Substance Abuse, ramping up efforts to curb the supply of illegal drugs, often linked to wealthy and politically connected individuals.

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