Founder / Director Mazvita O. Shonhiwa

Every day across Zimbabwe, youths and adults alike are suffering from the effects of Drug and Substance abuse- from drug overdoses leading to memory loss to psychosis to strokes to organ failure to death. One in every 3 psychosis patients at Annex Psych Ward are suffering from Drug induced Psychosis. Every week there is an article in the newspaper of someone who has fallen victim to drugs and substances. Burial plots are filling up with youths who are being taken prematurely as a result of drug overdoses. This is a real cause for concern. How many youths shall we continue to lose to this menace? Who will be Zimbabwe’s future leaders?

For most African countries, Zimbabwe included, the approach to Drug and Substance issues has been to treat them only after they’ve been identified — at a high and ongoing cost to young people, families, entire communities, and the nation. The family invests in a child’s education so that the child can one day take care of his siblings and his parents, but it is now a norm that when the one day finally arrives, the family’s hope for a better life is stolen by drugs. The individual himself, who has dreams and aspirations for themselves usually finds themselves no longer present as they become a slave to drugs. This issue is equally as detrimental to the country’s economy as the productive age group cannot meaningfully participate in the country’s development due to drug induced Mental Disorders and drug induced premature deaths. The government cannot develop its nation if it keeps diverting funds for development on Psych Wards and Hospitals that help the affected.

As reported by Kuklinski et al., 2012, in the United States, underage drinking costs the Americans $27 billion per year. More than 6 million young people receive treatment annually for mental, emotional, or behavioural problems. Treatment services and lost productivity attributed to behavioural health problems such as depression, conduct disorder, and substance abuse are estimated at $247 billion per year (NRC and IOM, 2009).

Communities Against Drug and Substance Abuse strongly believes in the power of Prevention and Awareness through Campaigns. Awareness Campaigns lifted Zimbabwe out of the Cholera outbreak as communities got taught to wash hands after toilet visits, to wash fruits and vegetables before cooking. The same can be said about HIV and AIDS awareness campaigns. When these started, everyone thought it was wasted effort yet today in 2015, Zimbabwe can boast of recording very low figures of new infections of HIV and AIDS. CADASA is adamant the same can be achieved for Drug and Substance Abuse.

Awareness Campaigns work, more so to children who are quite impressionable. As such the power of prevention should be unleashed if we are to win the war against drugs.

Of course CADASA is not naïve, obviously when it comes to giving young people a healthy start in life, our nation faces very different challenges than it did 15 to 20 years ago. For starters there were no issues of easily accessible information like now in the era of the internet. Secondly, the only time we got to hear about drugs was in movie productions from the West that we saw on television. Thirdly, policies on drugs were very deterrent, there was just no point in one trying to sell drugs as it meant a harsh punishment. The arrival of the Internet has changed the game for Africa and the world. Granted, the internet has been mostly a blessing to our generation as the world has become one village and everything now happens in real time. Life has been made easier as Google has become the most popular word in the universe. The field of education has mostly benefited as information is shared across the world, webinars, YouTube, educational webcasts have been a blessing to the Educational field.

The sad reality however is that the internet has also been a curse to our children who might not know how to surf responsibly. It is because of this new technology that we now have to worry about new threats to our children- Issues of Online Safety. Internet predators, Cyber bullies, Paedophiles, Murderers on the other side of the screen. This has of course made it all the more challenging as youths have access to homemade drug recipes, has made it easy to do drug transactions what with the internet allowing plastic money. The global village created by the worldwide web can therefore be seen as a platform that has opened up a whole can of worm for our societies as children are now vulnerable to trafficking, child prostitution and drug peddling.

We propose a grand challenge that will advance the policies, programs and funding that promotes creating an anti-drug generation among all young people in Zimbabwe—including those at greatest disadvantage or risk, from birth through age 24. Within a decade, we can reduce the incidence and prevalence of Drug and Substance Abuse 30 percent from current levels through widespread Awareness Programming like CADASA’s High on Life Projects that will serve millions. Prevention is the best investment we can make, and the time to make it is now.



Mazvita O. Shonhiwa