Official estimates put heroin addicts in Maldives to at least 3,000, or one per cent of the population. In the capital city, Male, where 77 per cent of the country’s addicts live, it is believed that some 10 per cent of youth are using drugs.
The “Wake Up” campaign, which was started by a group of Maldivian youth, emphasizes the importance of community support and acceptance for addicts to help break the stigma and promote recovery. The public - particularly parents and teachers - are encouraged to speak openly about the drugs and the consequences of drug abuse. “Wake Up” messages will be distributed today through billboards, posters, brochures, TV and radio with the help of partners such as Dhiraagu and TV Maldives - around Male’ and the atolls. In addition, a special campaign website www.wakeup.mv has been created to help children, youth and parents learn more about the drug issue and where to go for help.
“Drug addiction can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, gender, economic or social status,” said UNICEF Representative Ken Maskall. “Many people don’t realize that addiction is really a chronic, progressive condition that requires professional treatment, help and support. For a small country like the Maldives, if one member suffers, we all end up suffering – especially children. It is in the interest of each and every one of us to take action now and to say no to drugs.”
Heroin, one of the most highly addictive and destructive drugs in the world is the most frequently abused drug in the Maldives, and there are increasing reports of injection drug use. Although the Maldives has kept its HIV infection to a low rate, the increase in injection drug use makes the Maldives vulnerable to the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.
“Based on what we have found from the past one year and a half, I can very clearly say that more than 10 per cent of the youth population is using drugs,” said Rado, Founder of Journey, an NGO run entirely by recovering addicts to provide aftercare, support and peer counseling services for other recovering addicts.
“Throughout the world, the average recovery rate is about five per cent. But here in the Maldives, with all the tremendous efforts by the Government and the civil societies, we haven’t come anywhere close to that,” continued Rado. “We are living in a small society like this, we can go out and reach anywhere in this capital within five minutes, but still we are not able to reach those active addicts who need help.”
Together with the "Wake Up" campaign, a one-stop community centre for drug prevention, recovery and aftercare is also being launched today. The NNCB Community Service Centre in Male’ will provide basic counseling, peer support and rehabilitation services for addicts as part of the community rehabilitation programmes. Specialists, counselors, social workers and volunteers of the centre will organize aftercare programmes such as individual counseling, family/group therapy, as well as opportunities for vocational training to help addicts, especially the young people, to recover from drug dependency.
“It is time we all woke up as the future of our beautiful nation depends on it,” said Minister of Gender and Family, Aishath Mohamed Didi. “Become educated and aware of the harmful effects of drugs and the benefits of a drug free lifestyle.”
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information, detailed programme and interviews please contact:
Ali Shareef (NNCB) Tel: 7751162 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mohamed Rashid (Rado) (Journey) Tel: 7754609 Email: email@example.com
Sherine Guirguis (UNICEF) Tel: 2906977 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mohamed Naeem (UNICEF) Tel: 7783721 Email: email@example.com