AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE - The President declares a national emergency on drug abuse; Caritas had raised the alarm some time ago

Monday, 8 April 2024 drugs   caritas  

Freetown (Agenzia Fides) - "It is my solemn duty as President... to declare a national emergency on drug abuse". Thus the President of Sierra Leone Julius Maada Bio addressed the population to announce the creation of an anti-drugs task force. The new body will be responsible for the prevention and treatment of drug addiction cases, as well as the support of social services and law enforcement against drug dealing.
The National Drug Task Force, which involves all sectors of society and is overseen by a presidential advisory group, is to implement a five-step strategy to ensure what the Head of State called 'a drug-free future'.
Heavy drug use, particularly of 'Kush', a synthetic marijuana that causes dangerous health effects, is having deleterious effects on Sierra Leonean society. In October, Caritas Freetown had made a strong appeal to the government to act "immediately by declaring a health emergency" in the face of rampant 'Kush' consumption (see Fides, 27/10/2023).
Now President Bio seems to have heeded the call for action to try to stop a phenomenon that seriously endangers the health of Sierra Leoneans and the social stability of the nation. Under the name 'Kush' there may in fact be mixtures of different substances, with different, yet deleterious effects. It may include, in addition to cannabis, Fentanyl and Tramadol, two powerful synthetic drugs, and even formalin (which can cause hallucinations), possibly recovered from embalmed corpses.
The origin of the "ingredients" of "Kush" is varied. While cannabis is widely cultivated in Sierra Leone, Fentanyl is thought to come from clandestine laboratories in China, where the drug is illegally produced and shipped to West Africa. Tramadol is also believed to come from illegal laboratories in several parts of Asia.
Neighbouring countries such as the Republic of Guinea and Liberia also have to cope with the strong spread of drugs such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine and 'Kush'. The latter is imported from Sierra Leone, while Colombian drug traffickers have for several years now set foot in Guinea Bissau from where they manage massive cocaine trafficking to Europe. But over time, a market for this substance has also been created in West Africa. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 8/4/2024)