By Our Staff Reporter
KARACHI – A five-month-long drug prevention campaign aimed at creating awareness among public about drugs and their harmful effects on the society was launched in nine cities of Sindh under auspices of the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The much-awaited campaign was launched in collaboration with the ministry of interior and narcotics control and supported by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the US Department of State at a programme held in Sindh Governor House. It was attended, among others, by UNODC representative Cesar Guedes, secretary of the narcotics control division, ministry of interior and narcotics control, Ghalib Bandesha, famous cricketer Shahid Khan Afridi and several other dignitaries.
According to officials, the UNODC drug prevention campaign was being implemented in nine cities of Sindh which include Hyderabad, Larkana, Sukkur, Shikarpur, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah, Jacobabad and Khairpur.
The overall aim of the drive is to raise public awareness of drugs and their harmful effects on individuals, families and society at large with special focus on youth in educational institution, teachers, parents and religious leaders.
Sindh governor Dr Ishratul Ebad, who was chief guest on the occasion, said that launch of the drug awareness campaign in the province should be the first step in the direction of drug use prevention and its social psychological, economic and physical effects.
Drugs were the huge source of funding for militancy and to root it out Sindh government had launched a massive operation against drug peddlers and terrorists under the National Action Plan, he added.
Representative of UNODC, Cesar Guedes, said that the widespread availability of drugs in Pakistan was making it easy for people, especially youth, to experiment and become dependent on drugs.
“Social and economic impacts of drug use on families, society and the country were enormous, which further increased the burden on health services related to drug treatment and the treatment of drug-associated diseases such as hepatitis B and C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV),” he added.
Secretary of the narcotics control division, ministry of interior and narcotics control, Ghalib Bandesha, said that young people deserved every opportunity to live up to their full potential and exposure to effective drug prevention messages helped their chances to live a healthy life.
Earlier, giving details of the campaign, officials said that it has been designed keeping in view the results of the UNODC’s “Drug use in Pakistan 2013 Survey”. According to the survey, it is estimated that six per cent of the population in Pakistan, or 6.7 million people, aged between 15 and 64 used drugs in the year in the year the survey was conducted. Of these, 4.25 million people are thought to be suffering from drug use disorders and drug dependence, reporting significant challenges in controlling or reducing their use and experiencing negative personal consequences as a result of their drug use.
Sindh has the second highest prevalence rate of cannabis use in the country, i.e. 4.3pc of the population uses cannabis, and an estimated 570,000 people in Sindh used opioids during previous years. Of these, 66pc used prescription opioids (painkillers) and 34pc used heroin, opium or both. Almost 100,000 during users in Sindh are estimated to be injecting drugs, primarily opiates. Prevalence estimates for the use of tranquilisers and sedatives in Sindh is comparable with that of Punjab while the use of amphetamine-type stimulants is not as high as in other provinces.
According to the organisers, the Sindh government was well in the loop on informing people about hazards of drugs in the campaign through electronic and print media, billboards with drug prevention messages in local languages at strategic locations in the target cities, broadcasting of drug prevention messages and talk shows on FM radio local TV stations.