One does not need a scientific research or a soothsayer to point out that Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is major threat to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
To quote from the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, “ Once viewed as a marginal actor on the development stage, drugs and crime are now viewed as a disturbing obstruction to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Goals 3 on health and Goal 16 on peaceful societies.”
“Drugs have robbed many nations including Ghana for far too long. We cannot achieve the SDGs unless we end the ‘war on drugs’. The Drug War is won through education”, says the Founder and Executive Director of Life of Alcohol and Drugs Ghana (LOAD Ghana), Mr Atambire Roger Abaa.
The above mentioned statements made by the two Speakers confirmed the fact that it would be difficult for the globe to attain the SDGs if nothing is done to check the scourge of Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
For instance the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking recognizes the severe impact illicit drugs have on health, development, peace and security. Available scientific research also indicates that globally about 190,000 people die annually due to illicit drugs. Also Drug use damages health in the form of debilitating HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis.
Additionally the goal one of the SDGs talks about ending poverty in all its forms everywhere. There is no doubt that this goal cannot be materialized when the large productive population of the country being the youth is engaged in the abuse of drugs.
Aside the above, the goal two and three which stress on ending hunger, achieving food security , improving nutrition, promoting sustainable agriculture , healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages would also be difficult to attain when the issue of drug abuse is not tackled. If fact drug abuse weakens the human resource base as many of the productive age engage in them and become weak and mad and cannot deliver much to increase productivity.
Furthermore the Goal four and eight lay more emphasis on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all , promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth among others. It is quite clear that these two goals cannot also be materialized if the health of the population is threatened by drug abuse.
Drug Abuse and the Trafficking Menace in the Ghanaian context
The drug abuse and the trafficking menace in the Ghanaian Society is quite alarming and as Ghana joins the global community to mark this year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June 26, it is very important for all stakeholders to join the fight against the canker.
In fact it is quite clear that despite the stringent laws put in place to sanction drug users in the country in a bid to help reduce the menace in Ghana , the country still continues to experience high incidence of drug abuse with the youth being the most victims.
The recent upsurge of Tramadol abuse among the youth in the country is clear testimony that the country is losing its grip in the fight against drug abuse. For instance a recent research conducted by the Ghana Education Service (GES) reveals that Tramadol abuse among students is greatly responsible for student rioting in many Senior High Schools in the 10 regions of the country
These rampaging students often cause damage to public and private properties including school furniture, electricity meters and cables as well as cars belonging to some staff during such riots.
Besides the above , statistics from the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) show that about 50,000 people in Ghana, particularly the youth, abuse drugs.
It also points out of that out of the 50,000 drug abusers , about 35,000 of the figure are students from the Junior and Senior High Schools and Tertiary Institutions aged between 12 and 35 years while the remaining 15,000 are adults, with 9,000 being males and 6,000 females. These drug users are found in all the administrative districts in all the 10 regions across the country.
Speaking to the Ghanaian Times in Bolgatanga in interview as part of the activities earmarked for the celebration of the World Drug day this year , the Founder and Executive Director of LOAD Ghana , Mr Atambire Roger Abaa attributed the abuse of drugs and alcoholism abuse among the youth to experimentation and cited that the broken homes, orphanages, accidents, ill health and low productivity in the country are associated with drugs abuse.
Mr Abaa who mentioned that alcoholic abuse forms part of drug abuse observed that the upsurge of alcoholic beverages spots of late near schools in the country is very worrisome.
“One does not need somebody to point out that there are many alcoholic beverages spots springing up near many schools in the country including the Primary, Junior and Senior High Schools. What messages are we sending out to this younger generation?” he queried.
He mentioned that a cursory look at some schools in many regions in country including the Upper East showed the upsurge of alcoholic drinking bars and cited for instance the Bolgatanga Senior High, Zamse Senior High Technical School, Bolgatanga Girls Senior Schools and many Junior High Schools in the region where majority drinking spots have sprung up.
He stated that apart from the possibility of the school pupils and students glancing at the alcoholic beverages spots during teaching and learning hours and thereby affecting their academic work, they could also attempt to experiment by seeing people drinking.
The Way forward
Whilst calling on government to empower NACOB adequately with resources and logistics to function effectively in dealing with the drug menace in the country, NACOB should work hard devoid of political colourization in dealing with the problem.
As emphasized by the Executive Director of LOAD-Ghana there is the urgent need for Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies(MMDAs) and other regulatory bodies to regulate the setting up alcoholic drinking sports near schools as well as help in the enforcement of the legal minimum drinking age in Ghana which is from 18 to 19 years.
Furthermore the drug war is won through education and there is therefore the need for Government ,the Corporate world, philanthropists , development partners to support NGOs like LOAD-Ghana that works towards achieving a drug free society to ensure that all people realize their God given talents and contribute meaningfully to the development of the nation and the world at large to scale up its activities to more schools and institutions in the country as it had been doing in the Upper East Region .The NGO had over the years organized series of sensitization programmes on the need to stay away from drugs in many schools and other institutions in the region.
Traditional and Religious leaders must also join the crusade in fighting against the menace by using the various platforms to sensitize and educate the society particularly the youth about the dangers of drug abuse.
In conclusion it would be very difficult if not impossible for any nation to make significant impact in the attainment of the SDGs if stringent measures are not adopted to deal with the scourge of Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. As Ghana join the global community to mark this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, It is very imperative for all stakeholders to support the Government deal with the menace so as to make a significant impact in the attainment of the SDGs.