Battling heroin in the Maldives: New York Times

Fifty percent of Maldivian youth are addicted to some kind of drug, according to a video report produced for the New York Times, ‘Battling heroin in the Maldives’.

“You would not find a family without a single member or near relative not suffering from drug abuse,” Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed told journalist Mariana Keller, who visited the country with Mirva Lempiainen in June to run workshops on citizen journalism.

“Heroin was  first introduced 70’s, when Sri Lankan workers brought into the country to pave the roads,” Keller explains. “Most kids start using in school.”

And while it was previously hard to find somebody selling the drug, the introduction of mobile phones has made it very easy.

“Ordering a pizza in Male’ takes 30 minutes, but with brown sugar [heroin], it takes just five minutes for it to be at your door step,”  explains Ali Adyb from rehabilitation NGO Journey.

Jobs are scarce, but parents are willing to give their kids money, often feeding their addiction, narrates Keller.

Adyb places some responsiblity on parents: “Parents don’t want their kids to end up in jail – the path of denial is very strong with parents. Even if find out [about the drug use], they say ‘It’s not my son, it’s daughter’. And they practically give them money.”

The officials Keller spoke to blamed the country’s “porous borders” for the extent of the problem, and a lack of ability to scan cargo.

“We still don’t have equipment to scan certain kinds of cargo,” Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan says, explaining that once the drugs enter the country, the supply becomes so scattered it is difficult to trace.

Adyb notes that Maldivian society was showing a growing acceptance of drug use.

“People don’t care as much anymore,” he tells Keller. “People accept it as part of life.”


22 thoughts on “Battling heroin in the Maldives: New York Times”

  1. Please tell us why responsible jobs are denied to those with a drugs problem? Why are those in authority being two-faced about it? Please also tell us why this government is failing in their efforts to curb imports of drugs while the biggest dealers are known to the authorities and why the government's rehabilitation process is a failure? Why is Anni unable to deliver on the promises made to the youth? Perhaps the New York Times people are only getting one side of the picture.
    Ali Rasheed

  2. There is a growing acceptance towards drug use. And while every family in this nation is now affected by the problem, the actual addicts we have in our nation is between 8,000 and 15,000. (though some estimate 25,000 as well) It is most certainly not half of all youth.

    But the fact remains that we don't have the capacity to deal with even a thousand addicts. The laws that we need to hold and investigate drug dealers have not been passed by the Majlis yet (the only thing we have so far is the one on gangs which allow us to harass them, but not address the problem).

    We need a judiciary that is willing to tackle it as well. One or two judges allows the leaking of information to the dealers EVERY time a warrant is requested for some of these people.

    This is just unacceptable. And people just dont care. This is the single biggest problem facing the country today, and people don't care. The opposition wants to blame the executive, but without the support of the legislative and judicial branches, withotu the support of all stakeholders in this issue - nothing is going to get done!

  3. Heroine introduced in 70s? Based on facts or statements or a myth? I have witnessed the life in Male' since 80s.
    Some Maldivian students who studied in Sri lanka during late 80s were among the first generation who became victims of heroine. When they came back to Maldives in early 90s they were addicted and a market for heroine was opened. My belief is that the sri lankans and Indian dealers saw this opportunity cause of the demand. Haven't heard a factual statement that heroine was introduced in 70s. First Drug law was passed in 77 when 3 guys were arrested for using ganja. Presidents press secretary is one of them. Why not minivan interview him for accurate information? Its only possible that we might have the opium that they chew during those days. But not common and school children didn't use it. Anyway the accurate statement would be to say that heroine was introduced in early 90s.

    When you report that "most kids start using in school", shouldn't you give a reference? What survey?Its very misleading.Did you mean most kids who study in schools? Or your "most" is among the drug users?

  4. One more point. Good to see that for the first time Maumoon and previous governments and now Anni is not linked to the drug scenario. Would be good for the country if we stop blaming others and make a reality check and speak the truth. Learn what were the internal and external factors that contributed to this mess.

  5. There will be a time when being infected with HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and other diseases will be the norm. Eventually, the population of the Maldives will be reduced. Not only among the drug addicts, but they will infect their sexual partners too. The population of the Maldives will be reduced in due course. How to avoid such an outcome? In my humble opinion, through education. Mass rehab the sooner the better.

  6. Time to stop talking and start acting.

    Time to stop pretending and admit you don't know.

    Time to take assistance from those who can instead of cutting those who can because they don't carry a particular color or logo

    Time to stop dissolving efforts and money in fruitless endeavors with no clear outcomes and channeling the resources into result oriented and outcome based efforts

    Time to stop pretending its happening to someone's child - it is happening to ours.

    Need a wholesome plan for this country - not random acts that aims to put plaster on the wound and that without the antiseptic that kills the germs

  7. The stability of the country is in danger due to the increases in violence and crime. Results show a distinct increase after drug use and communication with prison officials’ reports that at least 85% of the inmates are addicts. Discussions with the inmates themselves reveal that drugs are available in the prisons. The current stringent law does not appear to act as a deterrent towards initial drug use. To provide a solution to the problem the drug law should have an increased focus on rehabilitating the addict.

  8. Eventually the whole of Maldives will face's on it's way into oblivion in every sense of the word..goodbye dictator Qayyooms' fictional paradise on earth....gone Maumoon and everyone in the world now knows that this was and is actually Hell on earth!!

  9. I think that this drug problem is everywhere. I don't have statistics but it just seems to be the way of the modern world.

    This article says that many are saying that People don't care... I wonder if that may be because there is only so much that a person can care when caring only makes one vulnerable to the pain of continual heartbreak and disappointment.

    Perpetual tragedy has caused so many people in this world to believe that there is nothing to look forward to in life but suffering, evil and death. Some people seek to deal with the existential pain which is the perception of such futile darkness through either a spiritually baron hedonism - pleasure seeking at any cost no matter who it hurts or what consequences follow. Some seek to find an ultimate spiritual meaning to the pain and that is what I have been trying to do. It seems that most people in this world are tending to lean towards either some form of religious extremism or drug addiction, and often a combination of both.

    Sorry to be bleak, its just how I feel right now.

  10. How sad these islands can't just enjoy the climate and accept the new culture with openness and love. Its diversity that makes them strong.

  11. @fatima

    "Eventually, the population of the Maldives will be reduced."

    Now, that can only be a GOOD thing! Most parts of the country are already far too overpopulated for the limited resources we have!

  12. Everyone wants to blame the government for failing to tackle the drug issue. The government can only do so much. And as Salim Waheed points out, the WHOLE of the country needs to engage in this; not just the Executive.

    Who are the people that know about drug dealers and addicts? It's us, the population that know best, not the Police, not Customs and not President Mohamed Nasheed. So, go on, hand over the dealers!

    This country is like a sieve; we're surrounded by water. An ideal place to import drugs. Basically, you can land your drug cargo anywhere in the millions of square miles of water around us! Think about that.

  13. What I wanted to say was that somehow, caring has to be re-awakened in this world even though it does hurt to care. The pain part can't be denied. It must be accepted, and a meaning to it sought to give ppl the strength to endure it. I feel, caring can only be re-awakened when it is realized that there is an ultimate spiritual reward for hurting for the sanctity of humanity. This way, eventually, a reward for the pain of caring will eventually be seen both in this world and in the hereafter. When humans experience liberty from evil, and happiness, it will be worth it, all the pain of caring.

    The courage to love needs to be revived in this world!

  14. Keep up the good work JOURNEY...

    and may u all find the inner strength to be what u can be... away from heroin.

  15. I've met little boys with battle scars that would make the toughest MNDF officer flinch.

    You think they're just going to let their older brothers be murdered?

    You're going to tell a kid growing up in such a hopeless cycle of hate to give up his only euphoria?

    What is the government doing to help children that grow up in gang families; at all?

    I doubt they even acknowledge the issue.

    It's much easier to just blame everything on the drugs.

  16. Drug abuse is worldwide and in epidemic proportions in some countries including the UK..We can just about hide it in the UK because we have 60million plus people..If you are saying 50% of your youth [out of a total population of 250000]are addicts,well then I would say you are on a very very slippery slope,plus the inevitable follow-up with aids/hiv..It makes me fear for your nation..The effect on tourism will be disastrous if, as is likely,tourists start to be robbed to feed someones drug habit..The world soon picks up on such stories[remember the wedding carry-on only recently],,who would come to your country to maybe get robbed or even stabbed,,no my Maldivian friends,do what needs to be done to help eradicate this evil..I wish you all the luck....

  17. The drugs are not coming from Sri Lanka and India but from your muslim brothers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Muslims are in denial of the drug problem in their countries. Saudi, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have serious problems with heroin addiction. This is what happens in tightly controlled and repressed societies. No alcohol or pornography, but plenty of brown sugar available. What a joke.......

  18. @Happy Infidel

    You're effectively an anti-Muslim mullah in many ways, blaming all of the worlds' problems on a set group of people.

    I almost came close to the drug life back in school. Nevertheless, I backed out, with no regrets. My ex-friends who entered the drug life are now on the streets. I wish I could help them, but thanks to the governmental policy on this issue, I cannot.

    Drugs have become a cancer in our society.

  19. The whole country is literally drowning from drug use long before the predicted sea level rise! Yet we hear absolutely nothing from Adhaalath, Salaf and Islamic Foundation!

    Now, I wonder if drug use is a sin like the use of alcohol. Remember the mass demonstrations against the mere suggestion to issue a license to sell liquor to foreigners at Holiday Inn in Male? All the religious leaders (including self proclaimed Religious experts like former singer Ali Rameez and his followers) were all up in arms against the prospect of allowing the sale of alcohol in Male. Yet we hear only "dead silence" from the same sources on the deadly menace of drugs destroying the entire youth population of the Maldives! Isn't this incredible? If one were to ask them, they probably will say it's a "law enforcement problem" and to do with the Police and not the religious leaders! Such are the religious interpretations of these hypocrites.

    If our religious leaders are serious about "cleaning" up the sins (since they see themselves as on a mission to show the rest of us how to be better muslims), then they should start off with daily sermons on God's punishment for use of drugs, murder, violence, theft etc. and other such sins that have become a way of life in the Maldives.

    It is said that the punishment in Islamic Shariah for use of alcohol is 40 lashes whilst the punishment for theft is amputation! Yet, our politically motivated Islamic scholars nearly brought down the government on the issue of "liquor license for Holiday Inn" but are unable to find their voice to lecture on the actual sins and crimes embedded in our country and are destroying the society from within.

    We try to portray ourselves as a 100% Islamic country. Now that's a laugh!


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