UN Regional Office on Drug Awareness: briefing

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Health

25 June 2003
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HEALTH, SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, EDUCATION, SAFETY & SECURITY, JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION, PORTFOLIO COMMITTEES: JOINT MEETING
26 June 2003
UNITED NATIONS REGIONAL OFFICE ON DRUG AWARENESS: BRIEFING

Relevant Information

United Nations Website Address:
www.unodc.org.za

Chairperson
: Mr Doidge (ANC)

SUMMARY
The Committee was presented with alarming statistics on the prevalence of hard drugs in the country. Addressing the Committee the UN regional representative on drugs and crimes noted that the consumption of hard drugs was increasingly becoming a problem in South Africa. He reported that since the year 2000 heroine had increased by more than 10% in Gauteng and 8% in Western Cape provinces. He added that 34% of heroine related patients were found in Gauteng whilst the Western Cape takes 38% noting that in the same period there had been a 5% increase in drugs consumption among the black population. He also reported an upsurge in the intake of cocaine.

MINUTES
Briefing by UN Regional Representative on Drugs and Crime
Mr. Rob Boone, the UN Regional representative on drugs and crime, said that although he was the UN representative in the region in actual sense he worked for the region. He stated that he would make brief remarks on the drugs situation in South Africa but invited members to visit the UN web-site at
www.unodc.org.za for a more comprehensive report on the subject. He pointed out that South Africa had an adequate legislative framework to deal with the incidence of organised crime especially following the recent restructuring that saw the disbandment of specialised units. He reported that his agency mainly dealt with both preventive and treatment aspects of the drugs menace. The consumption of hard drugs was increasingly becoming a problem in South Africa noting that since the year 2000 heroine had increased by more than 10% in the Gauteng and 8% in the Western Cape provinces. He added that 34% of heroine related patients were found in the Gauteng whilst the Western Cape took 38% noting that in the same period there had been a 5% increase in drugs consumption among the black population. He also reported an upsurge in the intake of cocaine.

Mr Boone pointed out that it has been reported that the increase in violence especially gender related and the prevalence of prostitution was to a large extent traceable to the drug abuse. He noted that South Africa had the highest rape rate in the world and that some of these incidences were directly linked to drug habit. He also linked the high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate to drugs in-take noting that so far 49% of those arrested turn sero-positive. He explained that the connection between the in-take of drugs and HIV/AIDS comes about due to unsafe sex practices and diminished capacity to resist sexual advances. He averred that this figure corresponds with the rough estimate of 46% of those arrested who test positive for drugs. He revealed that incidents of hard drugs being sold to learners in schools were on the increase. He noted that there was a worrying trend where the availability of cigarettes and alcohol had stabilised whilst that of drugs had significantly increased.

The United Nations: Office on Drugs and Crime was running a programme to assist schools and colleges to introduce guidelines on appropriate counselling. His agency was currently working with the Department of Social Development to develop norms and standards on drug therapy and treatment centres. His agency had also started an awareness programme with a view to achieve a national-wide roll-out to reach a target group of 10-18 year olds. The cost of the launch in the Cape Town was at R1.2 million and the UN wholly funds the programme. He pointed out that the national campaign would be rolled out in the rural areas at a cost of R5 million.

Discussion
Ms Dudley (ACDP) expressed concern at the increase in the usage of the so called 'date-rape drug' and wondered whether any research had been conducted on the availability and circulation of the drug.

Mr Boone said that his agency had a database on each drug category but that there had not been any nationwide research on the drug noting that his agency relied on secondary indicators made available through people that have been arrested.

Ms Rajbali (MF) expressed concern at the upsurge of the practice of prostitution and wondered whether the UN harboured any thoughts on how to deal with the problem.

Mr Boone said that the UN shared members' concern with regard to the rampancy of prostitution in the country especially in view of the further spread of HIV and noted that his agency had a country-wide programme to address the problem.

Ms Rajbali asked how the UN involved the community in its rural out-reach programmes.

Mr Boone replied that his agency's programme on violence against women strives to provide safety shelters to women and children that escaped from abuse noting that one such facility was about to be opened at Upington in the Northern Cape.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) observed that police specialized units were effective in their areas of expertise and questioned the rationale behind their disbandment.

Mr Boone pointed out that the disbandment of special units was an exercise within central government but offered that traffickers were normally part of the organized crime syndicate which presented a multifaceted problem that in turn called for a multifaceted security operation.

Ms Baloyi (ANC) noted that the best intervention with regard to the drug problem was prevention, which should be emphasized. She expressed concern that many drug syndicates had infiltrated schools noting that peer pressure played a major part in drug abuse.

Mr Boone indicated that most concern expressed by members was covered in the brochures that his agency published. He observed that peer pressure could work either way noting that this was why their commercial campaign aimed at turning the weight of opinion against drug abuse.

Ms Baloyi asked how the UN partners with government departments to bring about a coordinated approach to the drug problem.

Mr Boone said that his agency worked with multiple departments on the drugs issues singling out the department's of health, education and social development as some of its partners in the fight against the drugs menace.

Ms Twala noted that most youngsters turn to drugs after getting frustrated upon failure to secure jobs or advanced learning opportunities. Did the UN takes cognizance of these stark realities?

Mr Boone concurred with Ms Twala's sentiments and pointed out that this was why the UN has built a sports centre at Soweto to pre-occupy young people with positive alternatives.

Mr Mabena (IFP) asked for more information on training centres and how soon the programme would be rolled out in other provinces.

Mr Boone explained that his agency ordinarily asked a member state to indicate the nature of help it would require noting that South Africa had come up with 25 projects, which he hoped some of them would come to fruition by January 2004.

The Chair said the statistics that had been presented on the drug situation in the country were most alarming and called for concerted efforts to reverse this harmful trend.

The meeting was adjourned.

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