Liberia: NEPI Unveils Solution to Combat Drug Addiction

— Calls on Gov’t to adopt initiative in order to save hundreds of at-risk youth nationwide

The Network for Empowerment & Progressive Initiatives (NEPI) is urging the Government of Liberia to consider adopting its Sustainable Transformation for Youth in Liberia (STYL) program nationwide.

NEPI, a nonprofit organization registered in Liberia and the U.S. State of New York, has already implemented its flagship STYL program in Liberia, targeting 314 at-risk youths, 304 of whom are currently receiving financial support in Montserrado County.

Klubosumo Johnson Borh, the CEO of NEPI, highlighted the effectiveness of the STYL program during the organization’s annual project review meeting. He emphasized that the program has undergone testing and has yielded positive results.

Addressing the media at the start of NEPI’s annual project review meeting, Mr. Borh said the organization’s module has been tested and proven to be effective. In fact, he mentioned that the STYL program is not only being implemented in Liberia but also in Chicago, United States, with the aim of reducing gun violence. NEPI's STYL project has garnered praise for its unique approach.

“This program is ready to be scaled and we hope that the government is listening and that they can be able to tap into this because it is evidence-based,” he said. “We have researchers behind this to even test other assumptions. We have these people on standby. The guys we are dealing with are exposed to violence. The issue of drugs is serious. Based on the testimony of the community youth, we got evidence that it’s on an alarming basis.” 

The organization employs staff members who possess an extensive knowledge of the target neighborhoods, strong connections to local leaders, facilitators who can serve as role models due to their lived experiences, and a solid reputation among community leaders and high-risk young men.

Borh, a 2021 Rainer Arnhold Fellow of the Mulago Foundation and a 2023 Youth Empowerment Fellow of the Agency Fund has been involved in the development and adaptation of the STYL program for the past decade.

NEPI outlined its long-term goal, which involves establishing an ongoing program to engage thousands of participants in Liberia and other countries each year, thereby reducing crime and violence across multiple major cities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Apart from implementing the STYL program in Liberia, NEPI intends to identify potential partners and regions for further scale-up. The STYL program itself consists of identifying high-risk young men in a city and providing them with an eight-week group cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) program.

The program focuses on reducing impulsive violent behaviors, improving planning skills and future orientation, and helping participants integrate into mainstream, nonviolent society. One-on-one counseling is also provided, along with income support, to enable the young men to put into practice what they have learned while making positive lifestyle changes. An evaluation conducted by IPA (Innovations for Poverty Action) has demonstrated that the STYL program resulted in a significant reduction (20-50%) in violent, criminal, and antisocial behavior.

The program also improved the mental health and certain measures of self-control and self-image among the participants. NEPI's intervention this year has successfully graduated 314 participants, each receiving a US$300 cash grant. Drug abuse and addiction, particularly among Liberia’s youth, have been on the rise.

Global Action for Sustainable Development (GASD) has reported the lack of sustainable drug prevention programs in Liberia as a contributing factor to this problem. If practical actions, including policy implementation and donor-driven programs, are not taken soon, the situation could worsen, leading to increased criminal activities, unemployment, and other challenges such as SGBV (Sexual and Gender-Based Violence), HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy, and tuberculosis.

Borh echoed these concerns during an interview, highlighting that over 100,000 young people are currently being affected by drug abuse in Liberia. He emphasized the need for immediate action from the government, involving relevant ministries and institutions such as the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and the Ministry of Health.

He urged the government to adopt NEPI's program and implement it on a nationwide scale across all 15 counties of Liberia to effectively address this pressing issue.