The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has kicked off support and pilot prevention initiatives against the trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs that is increasingly becoming a problem in the West African community among the African youth.
The Commission, in line with its Drug Action Plan (2016-2020) engaged 30 Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) representing the 15-member states in a capacity building workshop in Abuja recently.
The workshop, which was convened in collaboration with the EU and the UNDOC, was to enable CSOs establish best practices and policies for preventing substance abuse particularly among the youth.
ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Fatimata Dia Sow, represented by Daniel Amankwaah, said that illicit drugs impacts severely on every aspect of life and couldn’t be controlled successfully without engaging the private sector and CSOs.
“We hope that not only would this workshop build the capacity of CSOs for substance use prevention, but also serve to organize ourselves into a sustainable network that can be engaged for coordinated activities aimed at reducing the incidences of substance abuse and related issues in West Africa,” he said.
Representative of the EU head of delegation to ECOWAS, Stefania Marrone, said that prevention of substance abuse is not about increasing awareness alone but also involves applying best practices to address the issue.
On CSOs ability towards tackling drugs related issues, UNDOC programme coordinator, Chiekh Toure said that the training was needed because most of them lack the necessary proficiency to develop and effectively execute evidence-based prevention interventions.
The CSOs shared their experiences and highlighted their efforts in addressing substance use and behavioral health problems in their countries during the training. They were also familiarized on regional drug policies, best practices and prevention initiatives.
It may be recalled that in 2016, under the EU support to the ECOWAS Drug Action Plan, the UNODC launched a call for proposals in order to support innovative and pilot prevention initiatives promoted by West African CSOs in six countries namely, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Liberia, Mauritania, Sierra Leone and Togo.