Scale of Maldives drug use and addiction uncertain: UNICEF

Many Maldivians are still failing to understand the difference between drug abuse and addiction, with the full scale of narcotics use in the country yet to come to light, UNICEF’s resident representative said today.

The comments by Zeba Tanvir Bukhari were made during the launch of a new toll-free helpline for local people and communities affected by the trade of illegal drugs in the country.

Speaking this morning at a ceremony at Dharubaaruge  to unveil the hotline, alongside representatives from the Ministry of Health and Family and President Mohamed Nasheed, Bukhari said that EU-funded programme was designed to offer drug users support in trying to overcome addiction.

“The helpline will be able to tell if one has an addiction problem or not. Most people are not able to substantiate between abuse and addiction,” she said. “The information provided by the helpline will be highly effective for enabling many to recognise the symptoms [of addiction] in order to seek proper relief measures. It can help in referring people to an intervention programme for drug abuse and HIV/AIDs-related treatment, support and care.”

The launch of the toll-free service coincided with the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and represents a collaboration between the UN, the EU, Maldivian health authorities, local telecoms providers like Wataniya and the government.

The service, which can be accessed by dialling the number 1410 locally, was inaugurated by President Nasheed who spoke with a counsellor via a video screen during today’s promotional launch event.

Outside of the hotline launch, the president has vowed to crackdown on the country’s illegal narcotics trade in a week that has seen police arrested a suspected high-profile drugs kingpin.  This pledge was itself followed by local media  reports of further security crackdowns on shipments at the Maldives’ main shipping ports by the armed forces.

As part of attempts to try and help tackle drug issues at both international and community level, Unicef Resident Representative Bukhari said that although the new helpline would actively try and provide assistance for Maldivians struggling with the effects of drug use, it would be open to anyone who was concerned with issues relating to potential addiction.

“The helpline can guide an individual through specific problems such as avoiding risk factors that that can pose a relapse. The helpline isn’t only for problem drug users, but for co-dependents, family and friends or professionals seeking support in other forms,” she added.

Scale of the problem

According to statistics from a UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) study released just last week, 210 million people aged between 15 to 64 years of age –almost five per cent of the world’s population – were believed to have tried illegal drugs or other “illicit” substances at least once during 2010.

Although official figures are not presently available regarding drug use and levels of addiction in the Maldives, Bukhari claimed that the first ever scientifically rigorous drug-use study to be conducted in the Maldives was currently underway. Once published, she said the report was expected to provide a true picture of the scale of drug dependency facing people aged between 15 to 64 living in the country.


13 thoughts on “Scale of Maldives drug use and addiction uncertain: UNICEF”

  1. How can any government control drugs; when Drug Lords are the neighbor or tenants (living next door) of Law makers?
    Those parliamentarians do not feel a bit of shame. Maybe, it is because their skin is thick!

  2. @hassan.... in the tiny filthy crowded male' almost everyone is either living next to a drug abuser, drug load, thief, child abuser, or a corrupt government official or a even more corrupt MDP cronies.....

  3. Finally, a real and comprehensive survey on the issue deemed to be the biggest obstacle to social development in the country. And it only took a decade of knowing there is a problem.

    Better late than never. I am on the edge of my seat awaiting the results.

  4. People like Red Wave would no doubt listen to or agree with UNICEF or the UNODC.

    So, I think now it's time to use Peoples' Power. We know the government tried several times to put such people before the Justice system but failed due to known reasons, like nonexistence of an independent Judiciary. If one looks at the recommendations made by the ICJ and experts from from relevant international bodies, we would know that we are not ready to listen to anything other than letting it go as usual which is good for those like the Red Wave

  5. "the president has vowed to crackdown on the country’s illegal narcotics trade"
    what a joke this is..!! hehehehe, where is he going to buy it then?

  6. It is sad day to see this company go down the drain. What Presidnet Nasheed must understand is that without a viable shipping line the opposition DRP can bring the country to its knees by delaying important food shipments before Ramadan or delay rice sugar or flour shipments. It is imperative to keep a small shipping fleet to bring our cargoes to the country.

  7. Hard on drugs. That's a good PR campaign.

    I hate to say this, but, the PR guys at the PO should know that it is common knowledge in our tiny country that the President was and probably still is a recreational user of hash oil. This perception dents these new efforts.

    Although some may argue that hash oil is a relatively "soft drug", and possibly rightly so, the general public in this country do not entertain such notions.

    It is understandable that the impending economic hardship requires the President's PR people to do something in order to cut losses. However, the political costs of another spike in prices would be phenomenal. Also the changing nature of the MDP has led some of its core and a large portion of its monied middle-class to distance themselves from the party.

    All is not lost. If the MDP truly has some strength as a party. It can put forward another candidate. President Nasheed cannot win a Presidential election anymore.

  8. I think we have to form a committee with police army customs,immigration labour depart, health ministry and the justice ministry and arrest all addicts and keep them in girifushi for 2-3 months. Any one who reports about an addict must be compensated after an amnesty period and must be held without trial for 90 days. We may have to adjust some laws but this is the only way to bring this to a halt. What we are doing now will only slow down the addiction but not eradicating this problem. Once they are detained, they can get necessary medical or legal help and release them with conditions to report for another 90 days. Unless we take drastic actions now, this will go on forever. I am proud to hear President Nasheed's bold statements, but this will fall on deaf years unless we take necessary steps. Under democratic rules, drug eradication is impossible. The amount of addiction in the west is a clear example. We should not follow this route, but take examples from Singapore and not UK EU or US.

  9. To imporve the quality of life and value of life , is the the answere to addressing the growing menace of drug abuse/addiction and drug related crime.

  10. Mr.President..Please,first and foremost,Please take a look at the condition of the main hospital in Maldives..No beds in the wards..nowhere to keep the patients..So many epidemics..Dengue&diarrhoea cases,no where to admit all the inflowing patients:On top of that the overdosed drug addicts..Please solve the problems,We are starting to look like the worst afflicted&starving nations of the world with hunger and spread of diseases and overcrowding!!! HELP!!

  11. we should legalize drugs so that it becomes a medical problem. This way there would not be a reason for peddlers and gangs to exist.

  12. Gayyoom's regime cracked down on drugs before his first year in office was over!

    Back in 1978, a very high profile individual who had innumerable portfolios and unimaginable, power vowed to eradicate drugs use in the Maldives!

    Arrests were made, interrogations conducted!
    The unfortunate who were not in the good books and enrollment of the hierarchy got the sentence and were tanned!

    Those who were known users but happened to be in the good books and enrollment of these hierarchy were "more equal than others" were unlisted and untanned!

    Thus ended the eradication!

    As additional measures, teams of Police were sent to many islands where large populations lived.

    School children along with their parents and the island community where gathered and physically shown drugs!
    They were educated on how to identify cannabis and other hard drugs!
    They were even shown what gadget was being used for a particular drugs!
    They were virtually shown how to roll cannabis!
    They were virtually shown how to prepare and inject a dose of hard drugs!

    End result of this eradication is a guess of what we are seeing today!

    In reality, it is very hard to say anything to this ordeal that we are going through and it is a sincere hope that it is not repeated this time for whatever gain or need; if at all!


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