United Religious Initiative bemoans rate of stigma for drug addicts

A non-governmental organization (NGO) in the country, United Religious Initiative (URI), has said the rate at which people who have gotten into problems because drug abuse is alarming and has thus called for the public to be accommodative.

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URI project officer, Geoffrey Manasseh, said during the ‘Don’t Punish Them’ campaign in Lilongwe that reforms are, instead, the way to go to help.

“People who use drugs are our brothers and sisters who can be integrated back into the society, and take part in the development of the country,” said Manasseh.

According to him, the principal drug control approach in the world for a long time has been fixed on punitive criminal justice responses at the expense of human rights and public health with more resources spent on police, judges, prosecutors and prisons.

“And the case is not different with Malawi which is characterized by punitive measures by law enforcers to those who either use or handle the drugs subjected to equal punishments as drug addicts,” said Manasseh.

URI feels that drug policy debate evolves in more countries including in Malawi, realizing that punishing people who use drugs is not the right approach hence need for a more humane, effective and health based response approach.

URI is therefore advocating for evidence based drug prevention, harm reduction and drug treatment services as well as alternatives to incarceration and arrest.

“The approach requires a review of the national drug control regulations using relevant guidance hence need for advocacy for such reforms in Malawi so as to safeguard human rights including those of women using drugs who are the most vulnerable,” said Manasseh.

This intervention will create room for investments in effective and cost effective harm reduction responses for the people using drugs including women.

During the awareness campaign, Group Village Headman Chisenga commended the NGOs for organizing the function saying it will help to reduce stigma.

During the same awareness meeting Rasta Gala Wanda pleaded with government and the law enforcement agents to avoid arresting them after finding them with a cigar of Chamba.

Gawa said some people who do not belong to Rastafarianism also smoke the weed.

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