354 people have been arrested over the last six months for drug-trafficking offences on the Copperbelt with most of them being women.
Copperbelt permanent secretary Christopher Mutembo said during the commemoration of the World Anti-Drug Day in Kitwe yesterday that it is evident that Zambia is facing serious challenges because youths are increasingly becoming vulnerable to drug abuse.
“Current statistics show that the trend of drug abuse is high among people aged between 13 and 50 years, women being in the majority. This is worrying because women are supposed to be the custodians of good health norms,” Mr Mutembo said.
This year’s World Anti-Drug Day was commemorated under the theme A healthy nation free from illicit drugs begins with me.
“Both women and men have not been spared either. This is evidenced by the number of arrests that have been made both locally and abroad on those who have been found with narcotics and psychotropic substances,” Mr Mutembo said.
He said the continued abuse of drugs by youths constitutes a serious health, social and economic problem that could erode national development.
Mr Mutembo said drug abuse increases the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission among abusers due to indulgence in risky sexual behaviour arising from impaired judgement and sharing of drug injection instruments such as needles.
He said Government is aware that the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) has intensified its operations in both prevention and interdiction activities.
He assured DEC of Government’s commitment to supporting programmes aimed at addressing problems of illicit drug abuse in the country.
And DEC Copperbelt regional commander Kelvin Silwimba said the commission is concerned about the increasing number of women involved in drug trafficking.
Mr Silwimba called on communities to help eradicate drug abuse.
He said drug abuse threatens the country’s security hence the need to sensitise people on the dangers of drug trafficking.And Eastern Province is this year topping in cannabis production and abuse because of the increase in the number of people growing the drug, which has also eased the public’s access to the psychotropic substance, provincial permanent secretary Hlobotha Nkunika has said.
Mr Nkunika said cannabis is sold cheaply and easily accessible to the public compared to other exotic drugs such as cocaine that are smuggled in and out of the country, especially by air transport.
He said cannabis is mostly taken alone or with alcohol and that is why its abuse is common among youths.
Mr Nkunika said this in Chipata yesterday during the commemoration of the World Anti- Drug Day.
“In Zambia generally and in Eastern Province particularly, cannabis remains the most trafficked and commonly abused drug as it is cheaply locally grown,” he said.
Statistics indicate that between January and May this year, 120 people were arrested in Eastern Province for drug- trafficking offences while 14,545 people in schools, workplaces, communities, prisons and churches were sensitised against the use of illicit drugs.
Mr Nkunika said the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) is currently attending to 15 drug- dependent persons under its counselling and rehabilitation programme.
He said the theme for this year is timely because drug abuse and trafficking contribute significantly to the high number of school drop-outs, increased crime, high HIV/AIDS infections, defilement, wife battery and compromised health.
Mr Nkunika said while Government enacts and enforces laws to curb vices like drug trafficking and abuse, communities should also take an active role in fighting the illegality.
“I believe that our society has a central role to play in guiding both girls and boys to enable them to grow in a drug abuse-free environment,” he said.
He urged parents and guardians to ensure children grow in drug- free communities and discourage pupils from cannabis smoking and alcohol abuse.
Earlier, DEC Eastern Province regional commander Addressie Munene expressed worry about the increase in the number of people growing cannabis in the province.
Mr Munene urged communities to report those who grow cannabis so that they can face the law.
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