It was brought to our attention in 2013 that drug use on the island of Zanzibar was impeding upon the prosperity and socio-economic development of the community. It was said that 1 in 10 Zanzibari people had an addiction to illicit drugs and substances causing devastating effects.
As a gateway from Asia to Europe, drugs such as heroin and cocaine are readily available on the archipelago. Heroin is cheaper than a bottle of beer and is readily available, affordable and accessible. The consequences of drug use has many forms; family units are being broken down, there has been a spike in theft and prostitution, newborn babies are reported to being delivered dependant on substances and people contracting HIV had increased. The most recently common method of sharing heroin whereby the primary user injects and then draws their blood with the same needle to give to a second addict for a milder hit, is a cause for gross concern.
In partnership with Sober House – a local grassroots organisation, AIO implemented a drug prevention programme for school children with the notion that prevention is better than cure. Producing educational materials and training peer mentors to implement workshops in schools, the programme was able to reach hundreds of primary and secondary school children. With the overwhelming support of The First Vice President’s Office and Ministry of Health, AIO was able to demonstrate how information sharing on what is considered a taboo subject has equipped children with life saving knowledge and given them the power to say “NO” to drug and substance use.
The ‘Be Smart, Don’t Start’ school programme included the production of a magazine with information on different illicit drugs, a cartoon of a youth becoming addicted to drugs from peer pressure and contact information for drug rehabilitation and family counselling services.
The program was launched in 2013 on the island and Sober House continues to provide community rehabilitation services for both children and parents.