Drug abuse and illicit alcohol are considered to be some of the root causes of most violent crimes in society and there is a need for multi-sectoral approaches to fight them, officials have said
According to officials, several investigations into cases of child abuse also linked suspects to have been under the influence.
Officials raised the red flag on Tuesday during the national symposium on drug abuse that brought together the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to sensitise against illicit use of drugs.
Officials said that drug abuse has been on the increase and has adverse consequences on economic development as well as people’s health.
Research by the Ministry of Health revealed that 52 percent of Rwandans aged between 14 and 35 years have taken drugs at least once in their life. The study also showed that 7 percent of youth in the same age bracket are addicted to beer, five per cent to nicotine and 2 per cent to cannabis.
According to the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) between 2010 and 2015, the Neuro-psychiatric Hospital of Ndera treated 1,432 patients with mental illness caused by the use of drugs. The number increased to 2,804 in 2016, then dropped slightly to 1,960 last year.
Yvonne Kayitenshonga, the head of Mental Health Division at Rwanda Biomedical Centre called on Rwandans to pay more attention to drugs abuse and called for joint efforts.
“We need to stop ignoring the issue. Drugs kill and we need to fight them. If our children take drugs, it has an adverse impact on their lives and can lead to death with some committing suicide,” Kayiteshonga said.
She added that while the government had put in place mechanisms to deter the use of drugs and offer support to addicts, there was still more to be done.
“Fighting drug abuse should be everyone’s responsibility ranging from schools, parents, youth and religious leaders. We need sustainable partnerships to successfully fight drug abuse,” she added.
Aime Bosenibamwe, the Director General of Rwanda Rehabilitation Services, said delinquency is a serious problem that required great attention
“Addiction has devastating consequences on the individuals, families and the wider community. It also affects the country,” he said
Bosenibamwe pointed out that the need for reintegration programmes. Currently, there is a lot of focus on rehabilitation, but without reintegration support, the addicts end up returning to their vices.
Religious leaders offer support
Bishop Alexis Birindabagabo of Gahini Diocese said faith-based organisations, especially churches have joined hands and are playing a bigger role in helping former drug addicts live dignified lives.
“The problem is not children who abuse drugs but dealers. In some cases those who should fight drugs are dealers, such cases have been identified. We should all play a part as the environment is determined by the parent, not the child,” Birindabagabo said.