A study that was conducted in 20 districts has revealed that 52.5 per cent of the youth in Rwanda have at least once taken drugs, and 92.7 per cent of that population group kept on consuming them. The survey, which was presented on March 15, 2012, was commissioned and conducted by the Ministry of Youth and ICT.
It also further reveals that the onset age among the consumers and traffickers is as low as 11 years of age. In an interview with The New Times, Zaina Nyiramatama, the executive secretary of the National Commission for Children, said that drug abuse is a big threat and a serious issue among the youth. Nyiramatama stated that despite all the efforts from the authorities to deal with this problem, the children's involvement is also key.
"It's in this regard that we decided to have the issue of combating alcohol and drug abuse among the subthemes that will be discussed during the 8th National Children's Summit that will be held in January next year. It will be an opportunity to explore the contribution of children in fighting drug abuse through the dialogues and debates," she said.
She noted that the children's summit will provide a forum to discuss with the children about their role in preventing and combating alcohol and drug abuse.
"We have many different stakeholders all involved in the fight of drug abuse but the children haven't been so much involved yet they are the ones affected, which is why we want to bring them on board this time round," she added.
A statement from the National Commission for Children states that children and young people who persistently use alcohol and drugs often experience a number of problems such as academic difficulties, mental health problems, poor peer pressure and breaking laws at an early age, thus clashing with the juvenile justice system.
According to the head of the Police Anti Narcotics Unit, Superintendent Emmanuel Ngondo, the biggest age group of drug users is between 18 and 35, most of them in schools. Statistics availed by the Police Anti Narcotics Unit show that out of 3,384 people arrested last year over sale and consumption of drugs, 2,566 were aged between 18 and 35, making it 76 per cent. 22.6 per cent of all patients received last year by the psychiatric hospital of Ndera had mental problems caused by drug use.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 200 million people worldwide abuse drugs at least once a year, of which 25 million are declared addicted. Each year, 2.5 million people die globally from drug abuse-related illnesses.