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The drug fight in Sierra Leone – the youths, our precious gem

The drug fight in Sierra Leone – the youths, our precious gem

Foundation for Democratic Initiatives and Development (FDID-SL) is a Youth serving civil society organization that has its headquarters in Freetown and a regional office in Bo City in southern Sierra Leone. (FDID-SL) is a peace building Human Right organisation that has championed Human Rights and child/youth related issues in Freetown and other parts of the country, especially in the Moyamba and Bonthe districts of Sierra Leone, since its inception.

FDID-SL FDID work to enhance youth active participation  and involvement in upholding and promoting a sustainable development culture and participatory governance at grass root levels, through effective information dissemination, advocacy, lobbying, dialogue, civic education and community driven activities.

In a bid to operate a smooth Human Rights/development agenda, (FDID-SL) has partnership agreement with other civil society organizations in the country. Because the motto of FDID is “Development through Civic Engagement”, our operations are geared towards the grass root in every community. Our slogan: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” reflects the well-being of the majority of the people we defend and work with.

FDID-SL is not only committed to defend the rights of the human person but also remind them about their civic responsibilities as good citizens of Sierra Leone. We believe as an organization that when the rights of people are protected and their civic responsibilities lobbied then development and peace are sure to come.

Goal & Objectives

The principal objectives of FDID are as follows:

  • To educate the children/youths in the country about sustainable development and about democratic principles as well as the need to uphold, respect and observe human rights.
  • To encourage and promote the participation of children/youths and their communities in the global fight against HIV/AIDS and Drugs.
  • To popularize the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) and make basic education accessible and affordable to every child especially street kids and girl child in Sierra Leone.

The fight against the drug threat to Sierra Leone and sub-regional peace and security

The rise in drug trafficking, including an increase in local drug production and consumption, is fast becoming a mighty adversary to overcome in the pursuit of peace, stability and security in a peace consolidating nation like Sierra Leone.

It is a challenge that requires a coordinated and multi-pronged solution.  It requires a robust stand by the executive and legislative arms of government and active involvement of civil society actors, religious leaders, school authorities and community leaders across the country.

The increased drug trafficking and consumption poses a threat to the peace and stability, governance and public health of Sierra Leoneans. It is estimated that 420,000 people 13% of the Sierra Leone population suffer from mental disorder of which most of it is attributed to substance abuse.

Organized crime groups are working in West African countries like Sierra Leone to support drug trafficking through the region and as a result Sierra Leone is no longer just a transit route but also a final destination as local consumption increases.

Our governments are ill-equipped to forestall drug trafficking and organized crime, often facing under-funding, internal corruption and limited inter-agency cooperation between  the National Drug Empowerment Agency (NDLEA) that refuses to work in collaboration with local CSO’s , United Nations Office on Drug and Crime( UNODC), and even other government  line ministries.

Sierra Leone is not only a trans-shipment zone, local production and consumption is also on the rise especially among its marginalised youth population.

Over 55% of Sierra Leone’s estimated six (6) million people are under the age of 35. The vast majority are uneducated, unschooled, unskilled and are unemployed or working in the informal sector. Lack of employment opportunities or reliable income put youths in precarious positions where they may be vulnerable to involve in the drug-trade and drug use itself.

FDID-SL EFFORTS IN FIGHTING THE DRUG PROBLEM IN SIERRA LEONE

Foundations for Democratic Initiatives and Development (FDID-SL) have worked on drug prevention and demand reduction in all the four regions of Sierra Leone, since its inception. The following activities have so far been undertaken:

  1. Surveysurveys were conducted in the three (3) regional headquarters and the Western Area, with the aim of assessing the rate of drug abuse among young persons in these communities. In each of the towns 500 questionnaires were administered and the data analysed from the information gathered, it was relised that over 60% of the youths in all the regions are on one kind of illegal drug or the other.
  2. Outreach – Community outreach programmes have been a major activity undertaken by this organization. Youth hangouts, schools/colleges and brothels have been targeted by our community outreach. As per our survey we realise that most youths in these areas are associated with drug, alcohol and crime. In desperate and troubling circumstances, drugs offer a means of escaping the harsh realities of everyday life, especially when almost 90% of the country’s population lives on less $1 a day.  Because of our findings, prevention messages are now being taken on tour targeting communities at various intervals. In our drive, we have targeted “Ataya Bases” Palm Wine or “Poyo Shops”, football fields as football is the most popular sport among the youths in Sierra Leone, market squares, prison yards and drug cartels or shooting galleries.  Dance and performances are part of our prevention techniques. Although we have got funding constraints in the past years we have been able to implement these projects with limited funding from the British High Commission in Sierra Leone and the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC).
  3. Awareness Raising – Massive awareness raising campaigns have been undertaken in all the four (4) regional headquarter towns of Sierra Leone. Over six (6) national newspapers have reported on the activities of FDID-SL in all our targeted communities. FDID have hosted talk shows on community radio, produced jingles, and report on drug prevention messages have also been undertaken by our organization.  Television broadcast reporting on our activities across Sierra Leone has been part of our awareness raising campaign strategy. Several workshops and seminars have been hosted in the targeted communities.

BENEFICIARIES: Drug peddlers, family units, community members, parents and youths in the targeted communities.

COLLABORATION

FDID-SL in our quest to fight drug abuse has collaborated with NDLEA, although NDLEA is not doing much in this fight.  We also have a strong partnership with the Sierra Leone Police especially the Trans-National Organised Crime Unit (TOCU)

There has been engagement with the law makers trying to lobby them into making amends on the drug policy.

We also work with other international agencies like UNODC and GOAL Ireland.  FDID-SL has membership with World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD) in Sweden and IOGT international.

There is an inter-agency working relationship with the National Youth Commission, with the youths themselves being trained as peer educators and change agents in their communities and community leaders like Councilors and youth leaders.

CONCLUSION

Apart from the damaging effects of drug and alcohol use on our nation’s human resource base, related offences such as corruption, petty crimes, violence and other risky behavior have also had a severe impact on the socio-economic development of the country.

Our borders are porous and marijuana which is the most misused drug in Sierra Leone is now being cultivated in all twelve (12) Districts of the country. Cocaine which is fondly known by its users as “Bible or Crack,” and Heroin which is also known as “Brown-brown,” are highly misused in the country.

After the guns went silent in Sierra Leone in 2002 we also saw the emergence of sachet alcohol drinks which are very accessible and affordable by even school children.

Inspite of FDID’s effort to blow the whistle on illegal drugs, alcohol and drug trafficking, government has done little or nothing in complimenting our effort.

FDID-SL calls on the Sierra Leone government, International Development Partners, other civil society organization and Individuals to join us in this global flight drug trafficking.

by FDID-SL

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