By Lizzy Okoji
The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) on Tuesday launched its 2018-2019 West Africa Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (WENDU) Report aimed at effectively tackling illicit drug use and trafficking in the sub-region.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the report, launched virtually by the ECOWAS Commission in conjunction with other stakeholders will serve as a guide to member states on how to effectively tackle illicit drug use and trafficking.
The report contains statistics and trends of illicit drug supply and drug use in the sub-region and will help member states in developing programmes, policies, and advocacy.
These programmes, policies, and advocacy will in turn help address the social, health, and economic consequences of substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking in the sub-region.
Dr Siga Jagne, Commissioner, Social Affairs and Gender, ECOWAS Commission, said with the WENDU project, West Africa could boast of valid and reliable source of drug-related data to inform evidence-based anti-drug measures.
“The report highlights the latest estimates and trends on drug abuse and illicit drug supply, as well as trafficking in substandard, spurious, falsified and counterfeit medicinal products in West Africa.
“The WENDU report will greatly assist in programming and identification of drug use patterns and emerging trends.
“I am glad that as the availability of data on drug use and aggregate drug supply in West Africa is rapidly improving, our individual and collective drug prevention and control activities will be scientifically driven for maximum impact.
“Moving forward, today’s 2018-2019 WENDU report launch will pave the way for the validation of the 2020 report which has already been collected by our WENDU focal points.
“This means that very soon, we shall call upon the experts to review and validate the 2020 report for its subsequent launch and publication.
“All these efforts are geared towards ensuring that the reports are timely and reliable.
“Reliable, up-to-date data are vital for policy and evidence-based programming without which our activities may not be effective as they should be.
“It is in this light that I urge you to make use of the WENDU report and disseminate them as widely as possible,” Jagne said
Mr Stanley Okolo, Director-General, West African Health Organisation (WAHO) expressed dismay at the public health and socio-economic consequences of illicit drug use in the sub-region, saying it led to increased drug dependence, metal health issues, violence, and suicide.
Okolo added that the drug habits “feeds-off the high rates of trafficking of illicit drugs and trafficking of fake and falsified medicinal products estimated at 20 to 40 per cent in the sub-region.”
He noted that the demand base for such trafficking had resulted in a vicious circle needing to be broken as a matter of urgency.
“WAHO has undertaken some initiatives in this regard including a “Regional Action Plan on Counterfeit Medicines 2011–2016” adopted by the ECOWAS Assembly of Health Ministers in 2010, the development of assessment tools for a situational analysis of the status of counterfeit medicines in the sub-region in 2016, and a draft legal and legislative framework for dealing with Counterfeit and Illicit Trade in Medicines in 2018.
“We are currently using the tools to conduct a post-market surveillance study of three medicinal products in all 15 ECOWAS member states plus Mauritania and Chad.
“WAHO also engaged the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) to conduct a survey of substandard and falsified Medicines in nine ECOWAS Countries (Niger, Togo, Guinea, Benin, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Burkina Faso).
“Looking at the supply chain management, mapping the entry point of illicit drugs and falsified medicines, and trailing their distribution destinations, the survey reviewed the legislative framework for expired medicines, how offenders are sanctioned, and which policies and measures exist for checking the influx of the falsified medicines.
“It is particularly gratifying that the recommendations for a multi-sectoral approach to tackling this problem neatly align with those in the WENDU report being launched today”, Okolo said.
Launching the report, Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd.), Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) said the Nigerian government would not relent in its fight against illicit drug use and trafficking.
Marwa added that the Nigeria would do a lot to sanitise the system and the sub-region “which unfortunately is the transit hub for illicit drugs from South America to Europe”.
He pledged Nigeria’s commitment to working with the 2018-2019 WENDU Report to effectively tackle illicit drug use and trafficking in the sub-region. (NAN)