By Ndey Sowe
The Minister of Interior, Seyaka Sonko, in observance of World Drug Day, said the Gambia Government will ensure that the Anti-Narcotic Agency is capacitated and equipped to fight drug problems.
This, he said, will help the Drug Law Enforcement Agency, The Gambia (DLEAG) to implement a balanced strategy in solving the world drug problem in tandem with internationally recognised standards.
Mr. Sonko was speaking on the eve of the occasion of the commemoration of World Drug Day 2023 on June 26, marking the commemoration of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking also referred to as World Drug Day.
The United Nations General Assembly on December 7, 1987, passed resolution 42/112 that sets aside the commemoration of this day as an expression and determination of the international community’s resolve and commitment to strengthening actions and cooperation against illicit drug trafficking, drug abuse, and related transnational organised crime.
The day also offers Anti-Narcotic institutions and partners across the globe the opportunity to reflect and draw public attention to their achievements over the years, challenges they face in bringing drugs and related activities as well as educate and sensitise the public on the dangers of illicit drug trafficking and abuse.
The theme for this year’s commemoration is “People First: stop stigma and discrimination and strengthen prevention.”
“The theme highlights the importance of implementing a balanced integrated multi-sectoral approach between supply suppression and drug demand reduction,” said Sonko.
“While we intensify efforts to strengthen our interdiction capacity, we must also strengthen and enhance drug demand reduction initiatives focusing on prevention, treatment and care, harm reduction, and alternative livelihood programs and activities,” Mr Sonko disclosed.
However, he reminded that their success in the crusade against illicit drug trafficking and abuse is highly dependent on collaboration, participation, and partnership in the fight against drugs and related activities, adding that abating drugs and associated activities must not be seen as the responsibility of law enforcement entities alone.
According to him, members of the public have a pivotal role to play in this noble crusade, therefore, they must be willing and determined to join the bandwagon in the crusade on drugs by strengthening prevention programs within their various communities and reporting suspicious drug-related activities to law enforcement entities.
Revelation of the findings of the 2021 world drug report shows a worrying trend for Africa. This is because Africa alone is projected to account for 40% of an estimated 11% global increase in drug use by 2030. Similarly, the report indicated a substantial disconnect between real risk and public perception regarding the usage of cannabis. It states that while the potency of cannabis quadrupled, there was a 40% decrease in the perception of youth who perceive it to be harmful.
He said this projected trend is worrying and should be a cause for concern for us as a nation and Africa as a continent.
“If Africa alone is projected to account for a 40% global increase in addition to a 40% reduction in the perception of youth who perceive cannabis to be harmless, then we must heighten our surveillance, strengthen our resolve to curb drugs, and increase public awareness about the dangers of illicit drugs and related activities,” the Interior Minister hinted.
He also reflected that the outcomes of the devastating consequences of drugs are insurmountable; adding that in 2019 alone, it was revealed that drug use killed almost half a million people across the globe.
According to Sonko, this situation continues to aggravate as drug traffickers continues to use sophisticated methods to trafficking illicit products.
Recent report shows that traffickers have resorted to using larger shipment sizes, increased usage of private aircraft, water routes, postal services, and contactless methods to deliver their illicit products to end users.
He noted that this challenge is further compounded by the advent of New Psychoactive Substance in addition to the threat of illicit drug trafficking and abuse on the health and well-being of individuals as well as the socio-economic development of nations across the globe.
“My Ministry under the leadership of His Excellency the President of the Gambia will ensure that we capacitate DLEAG to fulfill its mandate effectively and efficiently. We will also continue to support and promote initiatives aimed at promoting evidence-based prevention and treatment programs and activities. We also call on the public to be vigilant and report suspicious drug-related or criminal activities to law enforcement officers,” he concluded.