Feature: Zimbabweans commemorate youth day amid growing cases of drug abuse-Xinhua

Feature: Zimbabweans commemorate youth day amid growing cases of drug abuse

Source: Xinhua| 2023-02-21 19:29:30|Editor: huaxia

HARARE, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabweans on Tuesday mark National Youth Day amid a growing problem of drug and substance abuse among the youths, which has shaken parents as they watch their children sink into lives of addiction.

The scourge of drugs has hit the country in such a way that the government, police, parents, guardians, religious organizations and school authorities have come together to break a system that is threatening to cripple the moral fabric of society.

In the past, Zimbabwe was not a big user of illicit drugs, with only a few people being used as mules to smuggle them to other countries. However, the situation has changed in recent years, with youths indulging in them on a larger scale. The country's porous borders also make it easy for smugglers to bring the drugs into the country, while some backyards have been turned into breweries for illicit drinks.

Some of the youths can be found loitering around public places, especially shopping centers, where they indulge in illicit drugs and brews, while others use hideouts.

An elite school in Harare recently expelled eight students who were allegedly caught indulging in drugs during a trip outside the city.

The police have since launched a stop and search campaign called "No to dangerous drugs and illicit substances" targeting drug dealers and had by Feb. 18 arrested 2,391 suspects with the aid of sniffer dogs.

While some of those arrested are small-time dealers, there are fears among citizens that the major culprits are hidden away from the glare of the public by engaging "runners" to do the dirty work for them.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who will be the guest of honor at the National Youth Day commemorations in Lupane, Matabeleland North Province on Tuesday, said over the weekend that the government would craft stiffer penalties against drugs and substance abuse.

He told local journalists in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia where he was attending the African Union Summit held on Feb. 18-19, that parents had an active role to play in ensuring that their children remained safe from drug abuse. "We are asking all institutions in the country, churches and schools, wherever you find people dealing with drugs or young people using drugs, they must be arrested and make sure we protect our young people from drugs."

He urged those parents who cannot control their children to report their cases to the police so that they could be dealt with.

Various reasons have been proffered for the growing drug problem, among them peer pressure, idleness, lack of employment opportunities, and mere delinquency.

Church elder Moses Simbi also attributed the problem to the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said had left many youths with nothing much to do. "COVID-19 has also impacted negatively on our learners, with shutdowns and lack of recreational activities."

"Restore sports and other extra-curricular activities like clubs, Scripture Union and effect discipline in institutions, while the family unit must assert itself as the prime source of child learning," he told Xinhua.

Drug and substance abuse has also resulted in some public health institutions being overwhelmed by patients seeking rehabilitation. Although some manage to get rehabilitated, many others relapse into their old habits and restart the cycle again.

In December 2022, about 90 percent of patients at one of the country's major psychiatric hospitals, Ingutsheni in Bulawayo, were suffering from drug and substance abuse problems, according to the hospital's clinical director, Wellington Ranga.

Both males and females are involved, with some parents resigning themselves to fate as they fail to control their children.

A parent with a son and a daughter who use illicit drugs said he had tried as much as he could to have them rehabilitated, but to no avail.

The son was arrested after removing a tenant's belongings from the house, while the daughter's husband abandoned the marriage after suffering numerous assaults at the hands of the wife, the parent said.

"The girl has since stopped. Her husband ran away after continuously being bashed and has since remarried. Last Saturday, the boy was in court for throwing out the belongings of a tenant. This whole year they have kept me busy for the wrong reasons," he lamented.

He said the son had in the past been admitted to a psychiatric unit of a major hospital in Harare for rehabilitation but would relapse into drug abuse soon afterward.

The exact number of people engaging in drug and substance abuse may never be known, but society has generally accepted that the problem is real, is growing, and needs to be dealt with before more people slide into the abyss.