The Maldives has signed a memorandum of understanding between the European Union (EU) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The deal includes an aid package worth €1.5 million over two and a half years to strengthen the country’s response to drug abuse.
Foreign minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed said the money, which comes from the EU and would be in the hands of UNODC, will mostly be used to help with the rehabilitation of drug addicts, make people aware of the relationship between HIV and drug use.
Dr Shaheed signed the agreement at a ceremony yesterday with EU Ambassador Varnerd Savage and representative of the UNODC Regional Office South Asia, Cristina Albertin.
Speaking at the ceremony, Varnard said the program would strengthen the national response to combating drug abuse in the Maldives, and would target the major problem areas of drugs and crime.
Albertin said 10 per cent of the Maldivian population is affected by drug abuse, and that UNODC hoped the program would assist in the country’s enforcement of drug laws.
Chairperson of the Society for Women Against Drugs (SWAD) Fathmath Aafiya said she hoped the project would not end up like the government’s previous ‘WAKE-UP’ program.
”The government does not do sufficient work to reduce the number of drug importers,” she said, criticising the government’s lenient treatment of dealers by placing some under house arrest and letting others go free.
Aafiya said the government had “a lot of work to do” to reduce the importation of drugs into the country.
SWAD was expecting the new program to be beneficial, she added, as it would increase the aftercare and rehabilitation of drug users.