Deputy Minister of Health and Minister Dr John Mangwiro says there have been suggestions that the government turn idle beer halls around the country into rehabilitation centres to address the substance and drug abuse scourge.
Mangwiro was responding to a question in the Senate by Senator Voice Chinake, Thursday quizzed on what the government was doing to curb the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country.
Substance abuse is a growing problem in Zimbabwe, in the past weeks, the media has been awash with reports on drug abuse among the youths.
“As a nation, we are not used to it but now it is with us. Our national policy says that drugs that are not licensed are not allowed in the country. So, they are illegally brought into the country. Government, together with the Ministry of Home Affairs, are busy trying to curb and also find out who is importing these drugs with the help of the police who are investigating,” said Dr Mangwiro, responded.
He also acknowledged that learners were now abusing drugs.
“As Government, we are saying we cannot just watch but we are investigating this matter. As Government, we planned that we should come up with places where we rehabilitate these children per district and per province.
Dr Mangwiro added that the government and other Institutions should look at ways of rehabilitating those who are hooked on drugs.
“We are fighting drug abuse. It is not easy to just give up because the body will be used to the drugs. If we immediately withdraw them from the drugs without counselling and giving proper medication, they will be affected health-wise. We should come up with awareness campaigns on the dangers of drug abuse. Some are engaged in this because they do not know the outcome,” said Dr Mangwiro.
“We will try by all means to explain so that children will understand and know how dangerous drugs are. We are losing a lot of our young people to these drugs.”
Meanwhile, Senator Morgan Femai also raised concerns about the proliferation of illegal alcohol in the country.
“Long back, we did not have liquor which was sold in quarter bottles and is now being made by African Distillers; it is being delivered to supermarkets and the cost is US$0.50. Those are some of the drugs that are bought by our children,” said Senator Femai.
“It is cheaper to them if they get US$1, they buy two and share. Is there anything that can be done by the Ministry of Health that these small bottles should not be manufactured? They must manufacture something with a higher price so that it can be beyond the reach of the youths,” he said.
However, Dr Mangwiro reiterated that the youths are not only taking beer but are being introduced to hard drugs like crystal meth.
“When you hear them say ‘sticking’, it means when they take those drugs and they will just sit for three days without feeling hungry or doing anything. We are also hearing that they are now going after diapers, even used ones. We heard diapers contain substances which if taken orally will make someone drunk. We have heard this from doctors when some patients come to the clinic or hospitals. They wash and boil the diapers and drink the residue.
“We heard that they are also using fertilizer. We are going to sit down and find solutions to this. Many children even those at secondary school are taking drugs,” he said.
Dr Mangwiro added, “We used to hear that this was prevalent in low-density residential areas but now this has spread to high-density suburbs. We agree with what you have said and we will do everything within our means so that youths will stop using drugs.
They will end up stealing household gadgets from their parents because they want to use that money to purchase drugs. They can do anything when they are drunk.”