LAGOS|NIGERIA: Commissioned by the World Health Organisation, the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project, led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimate that globally over 160 million people had an alcohol or drug use disorder in 2016.
While data on the prevalence of substance abuse and the number of people with drug disorders in Nigeria is limited, available facts suggest that accessibility to and abuse of illicit drugs are on the rise. According to a 2016 report from the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), Nigeria is a known trafficking hub for controlled substances, with many young Nigerians in metropolitan areas getting entangled in drug-related offences.
In a strategic effort to address a growing national problem, MTN Nigeria through the MTN Foundation, in collaboration with a consortium of stakeholders has launched an initiative called ‘ASAP’ (Anti Substance Abuse Programme). ASAP is a multi-stakeholder intervention aimed at increasing awareness of substance abuse and addiction among youths. The goal of the programme is to discourage first-time usage and casual substance abuse nationwide.
The initiative kicked off with a press conference in Lagos on Wednesday, December 19 attended by dignitaries from various government and non-government organisations, including health practitioners, MTN officials and brand ambassadors.
“ This situation is urgent and important. Substance abuse is a well known and growing menace in our country. Our youth, the future of this nation, are at risk” said Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, Chairman, MTN Foundation speaking at the launch.
“This why we must do as much as we can; as fast as we can, to chart the right course and help those coming behind us understand the dangers. We owe it to ourselves and our children,” he added.
The initiative, which will run for six months, targets young Nigerians from age 10 – 25. Part of the integrated communications campaign effort is a dedicated microsite with an online representative trained to answer enquiries from the public on substance abuse, addiction, rehabilitation, in addition to direct engagement activities targeted at schools, campuses, markets, motor parks and communities across Nigeria.
The MTN Foundation has over the years partnered with both public and private organisations to initiate sustainable development programmes in different focus areas with the aim of making life brighter for Nigerians.
I must commend MTN Nigeria through the MTN Foundation for this carefully thought out initiative ASAP. The intake and abuse of unprescribed drugs among the Nigerian Youth is quite alarming at the moment. The Ministry of Health should declare a state of emergency on this menace that has not only physically drained the Nigerian Youth but psychologically impaired their level of reasoning. Often seen as a gateway to run from the challenging economic issues particularly Unemployment and opportunity-related, it would also be wise to form a merger with Private and government owned institutions willing to help employable youths with something doing and also train them with vocational skills. This I believe would positively influence this programme as we can not tell someone with no means of income generation to leave his/her ‘love’ without creating a new one. Great initiative!