The West Africa Network of CSOs on Substance Abuse (WANCSA) Liberia Chapter has made the latest call on the Liberian Government to cater to disadvantaged street youth who are substance users in the country.
In its communication addressed to the chairman of the House Committee on Youth & Sports, Hon. Solomon C. George, the regional civil society group condemn the recent raid and arbitrary arrest of disadvantaged street youths by the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency backed by the Liberia National Police on the request of Montserrado County Representative Honorable Yekeh Kolubah.
WANCSA-Liberia strongly believes that the action of the law enforcement agencies was 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 by past governments.
According to the anti-drug campaigners, 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.
WANCSA-Liberia also stressed that with 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 a 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 the communication noted.
The regional civil society group furthered stated it is 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. “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 WANCSA-Liberia stressed.
WANCSA is 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.
According to WANCSA-Liberia, 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 the letter noted.
WANCSA also calling on the Government for the prioritization of Substance abuse prevention strategies and programs and health care concerns which 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.
The West Africa Network of CSOs on Substance Abuse (WANCSA), established with support from ECOWAS, UNODC and EU in February 2018, is a regional network of civil society organizations working to provide scientific data, evidence-based drug prevention strategies and policy advocacy on drug-related issues in West Africa.