Bulawayo North Member of Parliament, Minehle Gumede has expressed concern individuals are now relying on drugs and other substances as a coping mechanism to the harsh socioeconomic challenges in the country.
The MP said this during an awareness march that was organised in partnership with Susceptible Iyanai Chinoda Organisation (SICO) and residents in the constituency on Friday to raise awareness of the dangers of drug and substance abuse, which is fast becoming a problem in communities.
Drug and substance abuse has been rampant amongst adolescents and youths, posing health and societal challenges as most users develop addictions and are unable to stop using drugs or alcohol.
In an interview with CITE, the Bulawayo North MP voiced concerns that drug and substance abuse was more closely tied to Zimbabwe’s economic issues.
“Most of the time people use drugs and substances as a stress reliever from their problems such as unemployment and poverty. We do know that in Zimbabwe a number of youths are unemployed and turn to drugs to while up time. We therefore need to interrogate how we can stop this drug and substance abuse and help youth,” Gumede said.
Gumede stated that research showed 60 percent of youths in Zimbabwe are engaging in drug and substance abuse, which required the community to be involved.
“These statistics show that we have a big problem that we have to tackle as a community and country. This is why we collaborated with residents to increase awareness and set aside this day to march in the community while investigating some of the factors that lead to drug abuse,” she said.
The MP added that drug abuse was not only limited to using drugs such as heroin or cocaine but also involves drinking illicit beer -‘njengu,’ smoking mbanje or glue that people “somehow have easy access to.”
The march started from Kingsdale, past 747 Sports Club and shops surrounding Northvale to QueensPark West ending at Queens Park East shopping centre.
The awareness march was attended by other Bulawayo MPs such as Eric Gono for Lobengula-Magwegwe, Discent Bajila for Emakhandeni-Luveve and Obert Manduna for Nketa who concurred that fighting drug and substance abuse was a worthy cause as it was destroying the lives of both young and old people.
Manduna said it was also worrying that illicit beer had “flooded the streets where people could easily buy and abuse it.”
Director of Susceptible Iyanai Chinoda Organisation (SICO), Senzeni Bhila, commonly known as Aunt Jina, concurred that if nothing is done to stop this scourge, young children may ‘perish.’
“We organised this march in Ward 3 because our children and young men are perishing because of drugs. This is why march is important so it can influence them to do behavior change,” she said.
As a community childcare worker under Social Welfare, Bhila has witnessed the effects of drug and substance misuse in the community.
“We must talk about this challenge and learn what exactly drugs do to the community, working with residents and police, as well as other stakeholders from various areas,” she added, calling on stakeholders to establish projects that may help unemployed young people off the streets and be hands-on.
“This may help our children who are holding on to degrees but are wasting their health and time doing drugs. I’m sure we can help them by luring stakeholders who can give them something to do rather than wasting time doing nothing. We are appealing to anyone to help remove our young children off the streets and give them something to do. That is our cry!”