Fellow Dominicans, this year the Ministry of Health is celebrating Drug Awareness Month in January, under the theme “Health for Justice, Justice for Health”, the theme chosen by the United Nations for the observance of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
The UN has indicated that the theme chosen highlights that justice and health are two sides of the same coin when it comes to addressing drug problems. The UN Secretary General indicated further that the theme underlines the importance of a holistic approach involving health, human rights, criminal justice and social service institutions, an approach which the Ministry fully endorses.
Drug abuse and its repercussions pose a major threat to the security of our homes, our communities and our nation. This situation, however, is not unique to Dominica. The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ghada Fathi Waly, has indicated that drug abuse is a complex problem at the intersection of Public Health, safety and social issues; it takes a heavy toll in our families and communities claiming more than a million lives per year. This is a global issue.
Statistics continue to prove that our society is not immune to the threat of drug abuse. We have seen an increase in the number of cases of drug related incidents at the Accident and Emergency Department at Princess Margaret Hospital over the past years.
These related incidents include cannabis intoxication, prescription overdose and Substance Induced Psychosis. It is therefore evident that our population is vulnerable to drug use.
Drug abuse contributes to our able-bodied men and women being either sent to prison or admitted to the Psychiatric Unit and therefore they are unable to meaningful contribute to society. This has to be a cause for concern to everyone.
As the theme for 2020 implies, health and justice should be incorporated in order to close the gaps and to ensure that there is appropriate prevention and treatment responses in place to deal with youth, women and our at risk population.
The Ministry of Health, through the Drug Prevention Unit, has, in the past, collaborated with schools, prison service and other key stakeholders and has implemented activities and programs as mechanisms to promote alternatives to imprisonment for people with drug use disorders.
The Ministry of Health is forging ahead with building a resilient health system in keeping with the National Resilient Development Strategy (NRDS) and in tandem with the country’s vision of becoming the first climate resilient country in the world.
The Sustainable Development Goals of 2015, which has been incorporated in the NRDS, speaks to Goal number 3 “Good health and well-being”, with target 3.5 alluding to strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol.
In so doing, it is instrumental that we focus on the achievement of the SDGs and embrace social inclusion as well as rehabilitation and reintegration into society, since these are vital in building a resilient health system and country.
In light of this year’s activities I call upon all communities to take action by:
- Informing and educating community members on the danger of drugs as well as supporting the work of the National Drug Abuse Prevention Unit
- Participating in organized Anti- drug activities in your communities
- Providing required support for projects and programs geared towards prevention and treatment in your communities
- Increasing parental role in early detection of drug use by children with a view of keeping our children on the right track
- Creating spaces where individuals and groups can recreate in an environment free from drugs
Let me remind our citizens that while the Government has the responsibility to protect and help those at risk, our families, schools, churches and entire communities must play a major role in strengthening our society’s defenses against the use and abuse of drugs, and provide the ongoing support for individuals who are victims to drug abuse, as well as those who have made the choice to remain drug free.
The Ministry of Health, and by extension the Government of Dominica, remains committed to organizing, implementing and supporting activities that will promote balanced health and justice-based approaches to drug abuse prevention.
This commitment will build on human rights obligations and sustainable goals, all of which can contribute to the elimination of drug abuse or significantly reduce its impact.
As we observe Drug Awareness Month 2020, let us make a commitment to keep our families and communities drug free, safe and healthy.
I take this opportunity to wish everyone a drug free, blessed, healthy and prosperous New Year.