ACCRA, 26 June 2012 – Drug law enforcement officials from Africa are this week attending the 22nd session of the meeting of African Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA) in Accra Ghana, from 25 – 29 June.
The week-long session will discuss the current situation of regional and sub regional cooperation in countering drug trafficking in areas such as joint investigations, law enforcement training and the sharing of information on and experience in drug trafficking counter-measures.
The meeting comes at a time when the United Nations General Assembly will on the same day in New York hold a thematic debate on drugs and crime as a threat to development. The debate, convened on the UN International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, highlights the impact of drugs and crime on poverty alleviation and the Millennium Development Goals. It also discusses ways of improving the international community's coordinated efforts to address the adverse impact of drugs and crime on development.
At the same forum, UNODC will launch the 2012 World Drug Report. The Report reveals that countries particularly in West Africa are increasingly being used as transit points in the trafficking of drugs from Asia to Europe.
Regarding drug use, the report shows that the most commonly used drug in Africa continues to be cannabis, followed by Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). The annual prevalence of cannabis use in Africa, particularly in West and Central Africa, is much higher than the global average.
Drug use appears to be spilling over into countries lying on trafficking routes, such as in West and Central Africa, which is witnessing increasing numbers of cocaine users. The increasing use of heroin and drug injecting is also emerging as an alarming trend, particularly in Eastern Africa.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 1.78 million drug users are estimated to be injecting drug users, and an estimated 221,000 injecting drug users are living with HIV. The numbers of drug-related deaths in Africa average between 13,000 – 41,000 per year. Overall, experts from African States who reported to UNODC perceived a substantial increase in the use of all illicit drugs after 2005.
Speaking at the HONLEA forum, UNODC Chief of the Laboratory and Scientific Section, Mr. Justice Tettey said, “Illicit drugs fuel crime and insecurity, while undermining human rights and posing significant public health risks. The World Drug Report presents an important assessment of the illicit drug situation in Africa. However the main challenge we face is the lack of data and reporting on different aspects of illicit drug demand and supply in Africa, where available data remains vague at best. For instance, in 2010, only 7 out of 54 African States provided information to UNODC.”
Mr. Tettey stressed the importance for African governments to focus on improving the quality of data collection on illicit drug use so that the market can be properly measured, which would in turn contribute to more effective intervention strategies by law enforcement agencies.
Mr. Tettey said the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, whose theme is "Global Action for Healthy Communities without Drugs", calls for community –centred approaches to preventing drug use and tackling drug trafficking. “Prevention starts with a community that cares about the vulnerable and it involves families, teachers, youth leaders and mentors, among others,” he added. UNODC, along with leading civil society organizations, promotes approaches that empower and support community-based strategies and by doing so put people at the centre of this response.
Mr. Kofi Bentum Quantson, the Chair of the 22nd HONLEA session, said, “Many countries in Africa face the same law enforcement challenges, however the issue of drug use within communities goes beyond law enforcement. The health and safety of our communities depend on our collective action that puts people at the centre of our response to drug use. Working together, we can break the strangulating hold of drugs on African countries, communities and families.”
At the forum, Mr. Tettey released a new report entitled West Africa 2012 ATS Situation Report which gives an insight into the latest trends concerning amphetamine, methamphetamine, methcathinone, and ecstasy-group substances in the region.