The Association of Progressive Youth of Liberia in partnership with the Consolidated Youth for Peace & Development has launched the Liberia Substance Users Care & Support Program in the Township of West Point in Monrovia.
Speaking to over one hundred street youth who are drug users at the official launch of the program, APYL executive director, Reuben Bobby Logan stated that the program seeks to provide feeding, treatment, and support for young people living on the streets who are substance users in Liberia.
The AYPL boss also stated that the primary goal of the program is to provide free food for at least fifty (50) substance users in each of the seventeen political districts in Montserrado every Sunday during the first phase of the program, identify and recruit at least 100 substance every six months for rehabilitation at the program site to be set up outside of Montserrado stressing that the program will also adopt a youth to youth approach by promoting peer counselling, beneficiaries profiling and strategic mobilization.
Mr. Logan stressed that the government should invest in data collection, treatment and care for substance users and make drug trafficking non-bailable and increase punishment drug traffickers will help the situation rather than abusing young people living on the street who are victims in the name making Liberia a drug free country.
We again want to condemn the Liberia National Police and Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency for their action which we see as counter-productive and it do meet current day reality Mr. Logan averred.
For his part the Consolidated Youth for Peace & Development Executive Director, James Koryor stated that the actions of law enforcement agencies are in line with their statutory mandate but was not timely and also undermines the government pro-poor agenda as it relates to catering for disadvantaged street youths who were abandoned bypass governments.
Koryor stressed that globally and regionally governments and policymakers have realized that the war on drug through arrest and incarceration has failed to address the problem. Therefore, stakeholders and policymakers have considered evidence-based drug prevention, rehabilitation, treatment and support for substance users thereby putting more enforcement and tougher punishment on trafficker and smugglers to address the drug problem emphasized.
The COYPED boss furthered stated that the need for the prioritization of Substance abuse prevention strategies and programs and health care concerns requires the establishment of dedicated specialized and dedicated agencies to cater for substance abuse prevention, treatment, and care issues as opposed to the current regime where such issues are lumped together in agencies whose primary focus is Drug Law enforcement.
Launching the program, former Montserrado County District # 9 Representative Aspirant, Fubbi A. Henries commended COYPED and APYL stating that the youths comprising over 60% of the population of the country and realizing that the youth segment of any countries population is most susceptible to abuse substances, there is greater need for Liberia to prioritize and focus their efforts at substance abuse reduction strategies at the youth. This should, in particular, involve programs driven by young people themselves he stressed.
We are also concern about the protection of children who parents are substance users and living in the ghettos because children are most vulnerable to harms posed by drugs and least capable to protect themselves or make appropriate decisions regarding drug abuse Mr. Henries averred.
According to Mr. Henries, children are innocent victims of adults’ drug use when such use prevents adults from fulfilling their roles as parents, caregivers, breadwinners etc. The Liberian Child, the country’s future, and most prized resource, deserves, in accordance with the provisions of Article 33 of the Convention to the Rights of the Child to which most African countries are signatory including Liberia, to special protection from substances of abuse.
We are also worried about the repressive policing practices with the use of brutal force and incarceration, without taking into consideration the prevention and health care component of substance abuse is counter-productive. Police should work in collaboration with local authorities and civil society in community-based prevention and early intervention programs where alternatives to incarceration and other methods that bring young people back into the community are used for minor drug offenses. Sanctions must be proportionate to the crime committed Mr. Henries concluded.
The program brought together over one hundred street youth who are substance users, youth groups, community leaders, local authority and the media. The program is a joint collaboration of the Association of Progressive Youth of Liberia and The Consolidated Youth for Peace & Development.