By: Razanne Chatila
Africa has taken second place in the worldwide trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs. Drugs take a heavy toll on Africans. According to UN statistics, 37,000 people in Africa die annually from drug-related causes, with estimates of over 28 million drug users. Chief of drug prevention and health branch at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Gilberto Gerra, said the reason for this rise of illegal drug consumption is the result of political instability and loose borders.
To address this problem a two-day, international conference in Kampa took place this week. At the conference, young people in consumption countries were identified as the most vulnerable population falling victim to drugs with the lure of fitting in or having a better a life with each drug they take.
Just last month, the West Africa Commission on the Impact of Drugs on Governance, Security and Development was launched by the former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Center in Accra, Ghana. Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, was appointed to serve as its chair. Some of the goals of this commission include: developing evidence, based policy recommendations, public awareness and political commitment, and promoting local and regional solutions to deal with drug trafficking.
In regards to this new commission, Obasanjo said, “The trade in illegal drugs has already caused devastation in other regions of the world. We must all work together to prevent West Africa from experiencing the same fate. The Commission looks forward to its urgent and important work.”
Although globally, illicit drug use has remained stable in five years according to the World Drug report, the problem still remains large. Governments in countries all over Africa voiced their concern for this issue and protecting their most vulnerable, the youth.
With West Africa’s weak borders, according to Gerra, drug cartels from Colombia and Latin America have chosen to use these locations as gateways to reach Europe, which has increased significantly in recent years. In an article by All Africa news, it was reported that since 2008 the volume of cocaine transiting through West Africa was about 50 tons a year, an estimated $2 billion annually. They also stated that nearly 50 percent of cocaine, or about 13 percent of all global flows, is now believed to be smuggled through West Africa. The reason for this is due to West Africa’s geographical proximity to European markets that make it strategically well-located for drug-smuggling purposes and with the lack of strong government control of its borders, this area has quickly flourished to a drug transit hotspot.
With 70 percent of the sub-region’s population under the age of 35, the vast majority has limited access to education and large portions are unemployed. The lack of opportunities or reliable income put most individuals in a risky situation. Drugs offer a means of escaping difficult and desperate circumstances and a ticket for securing an income. However, not only do alternate livelihoods need to be provided for these populations, but more drug education needs to be taught in schools to educate the younger population of what these “golden tickets” really mean and what effects it can truly have on their lives.
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.