The Ministry of Health has unveiled a six month campaign against drug abuse focusing on prevention and treatment of mental disorders.
Organised jointly by the Mental Health Division, the Inter-ministerial Committee responsible for fighting against illicit use of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors, among other partners, the campaign will start this month through December.
It will be launched during the national celebration of the International Day against Drug Abuse on June 26 which will be held in Kirehe, a district, which according to the officials, to be among the main entry points for cannabis and illegal brews.
The International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking falls on June 26 each year and seeks to raise awareness of the major problem that illicit drugs present to society.
The campaign will head to Rubavu, Huye and Iwawa Rehabilitation Centre where citizens will hear from mental health medics from the ministry as well as from people that have once been victims of drug abuse who will give testimonies about the dangers of substance abuse.
It will also involve sensitisation of health providers on their role in prevention and creation of anti-drug abuse clubs in schools, general sensitisation through media (TV and radio programmes).
It will end with an evaluation session between the ministry and stakeholders in December.
A similar campaign by the ministry last year, according to official statistics, reached over 1,795,641 people.
The campaigns target all categories of population including the youth, students, adults and parents reminding them of their role in preventing drug trafficking, use, transportation, production and distribution.
Addressing journalists in Kigali last week, Dr Jean Damascene Iyamuremye, the Director of Psychiatric Care at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, warned of the effects of drug abuse to individuals, families as well as the general public.
“Drug abuse increases the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as a number of non-communicable diseases affecting the liver, heart, kidneys and so on. It also makes families poor and unstable, and hinders the development of the community. People on drugs cannot develop a community,” he said.
Dr Yvonne Kayiteshonga, the Head of the Mental Health Department at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, added her voice to her colleague’s.
“The strength of this nation is the people. But they have to be mentally healthy,” she said.
In Rwanda, the consumption of illegal drugs has been on the rise in recent years. A study conducted by the Ministry of Youth and ICT in collaboration with Kigali Health Institute in 2012 showed that 52.5 per cent of the youth aged between 14 and 35 years had consumed one or more substances at least once in their lifetime.
It also showed that, due to regular substance abuse, one young man or woman out of thirteen (7.46 per cent) was alcohol dependent, one young man or woman out of twenty (4.88 per cent) suffered from nicotine dependence while one young man or woman out of forty (2.54 per cent) was cannabis dependent.
At Ndera neuropsychiatric hospital, patients with alcohol and drugs-induced mental illness who consulted increased from 440 in 2009 to 2804 in 2016.
Huye Isange Rehabilitation Centre (HIRC) in 2016 reported 269 cases managed. The substance abused by the majority of people is cannabis, followed by heroine, alcohol and tobacco.