Dr. Mesfin Zbelo, World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative to Liberia, has called on the Liberian Government and partners to increase the fight against drug abuse and alcohol addictions in the country.
Dr. Zbeloe made the remarks on Friday in Monrovia during the official launch of Community Action for Reintegration & Empowerment Incorporated (CARE Inc.), which brought together stakeholders and partners.
CARE Incorporated seeks to rescue those in need of help and increase the fight against drug and alcohol addiction in the country with an initial focus on Montserrado County.
The program, which was launched under the theme “Fighting Drugs and Alcohol addictions in Liberia” also included a march from up Broad Street to the Main Campus of the University of Liberia.
Dr. Zbelo said fighting against drugs and alcohol addiction is part of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which runs from 2015 to 2030. He said drug and substance abuse is helping to marginalize certain segments of the population in developing countries, including Liberia.
“This is a situation that affects the young age of the population, and it is against development because the young folks remain the productive force. The productive force continues to be trapped in this difficult situation,” Dr. Zbelo said.
According to him, Liberia is one of the risky countries in terms of drugs coming to West Africa and Liberia continues to serve as an intersection for Asia and South America the trade of drugs and alcohol.
“Again, the West African Association Society and various governments, including Sierra Leone, and Liberia, have been doing well to fight the drugs since 2011,” Dr. Zbeloe said.
He told the authorities of CARE Inc. that the decision to fight drugs and alcohol addictions remains timely while calling for more collaborations with partners. According to him, drug abuse and alcohol addictions in West Africa and Liberia in particular is on the rise.
“Some of the young adults are seriously being affected and the situation continues to affect more people. We think that the fight will be considered an epidemic crisis because the situation is causing the disintegration of families and communities,” Dr. Zbelo said.
Christopher W. Toe Jr., General Secretary of the Liberia Council of Churches, said many young people continue to get involved in drugs and are sponsored by the elderly.
“We did research and the outcome showed that some of the people who are riding vans around here are the people sponsoring the young people on the street. We have to fight drugs and alcohol addiction in Liberia, which is very important,” Mr. Toe said.
Mr. Toe, who officially launch the organization pledged the church and the religious community’s support to CARE Incorporated, said: “these are things that the church speaks against every day.”
According to him, everyone needs to be an ambassador in their various communities to ensure that the issue of drug and alcohol addition is reduced at all levels.
“Sadly, most of the young people complained that they do not have the financial capacity, but use a lot of money to buy alcohol and drugs. When you come from church on Sunday, and you are driving, you see at every intersection people bringing the tables outside which get decorated with bottles of alcoholic drinks,” he said.
Konrad Barjuah, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and founder of Community Action for Reintegration & Empowerment Incorporated (CARE Inc.), said his organization is prepared to give hope to the hopeless.
“CARE Inc. was a dream that started in 2016 when I first visited Liberia and interacted with some of the disadvantaged youth (zogos) who have been stigmatized. Today, our organization is fully committed to removing the stigma that has been placed on disadvantaged youth and make them feel at home,” Mr. Barjuah said.
According to him, the organization will continue to live with a slogan “Kukally, Kukatonu”, a phrase from the Kpelle language, which means ‘all of us are one’.
“The program seeks to address what it called the 3 Rs: Rescue, Rehabilitate and Reintegrate.”
He further said the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS), Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGCSP), Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) have given their words to support CARE Incorporated in rescuing disadvantaged youth and reintegrating them into society.