29 December 2010 - The Republic of Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean well known for its tourism industry, is witnessing a growth in the use of drugs, particularly among young people. As injecting drug use becomes more common, there is a greater risk of HIV transmission, Hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases among the population.
UNODC has partnered with local non-governmental organizations, the Narcotics Control Council, the Department of Drug Prevention and Rehabilitation Services and the Ministry of Health and Family in the Maldives to carry out a project entitled "Strengthening the National Response to Combat Drug Abuse in the Maldives". Supported by the European Union, one of the objectives of the project is to strengthen and support community-based approaches for drug use prevention, treatment and care.
As part of the activities under this project, a first ever health camp was organized last month in the Fenfushi Island of the Alif Dhaal Atoll. The objective of the health camp in the remote island was to create awareness about drug use, including the effect of drugs on individuals, families and the community; as well as about the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation options available in the country.
Two hundred and twenty out of eight hundred members of the island community participated in the half-day long event, which consisted of games, group discussions and individual interactions aimed at imparting knowledge about HIV/AIDS and drug use, and other health related services.
At the camp, counseling sessions were conducted for parents to help them understand the signs and symptoms of drug use among adolescents, and to provide information on the services available for those affected by drug use. Counselors and recovering drug users gave information on drug related issues and sexual health to the youth. Adolescent girls, young women and mothers received information on reproductive health and child care.
The health camp was conducted in line with the UNODC approach of Low Cost Community-based Care and Support for Drug Users (LCCS). LCCS is a proven advocacy instrument that empowers local organizations and community members to reach out and provide services to drug users in the community. It draws on trained local members of the community, and locally available resources to scale-up quality services for drug users, including those related to the prevention of HIV. This approach is particularly useful when drug users are located in remote settings, far away from any institution-based drug treatment. It is also beneficial for those who cannot afford, or spare time to access regular services.
As demonstrated by the success of the health camp in Fenfushi Island, this approach is especially effective in the Maldives, where health services for drug users and their families are limited. In order to respond effectively, it is vital to expand the availability of drug related services and make them accessible at the atoll and island level. UNODC envisages close collaboration with the Maldivian Government and civil society to address the adverse consequences of drug use in the country, by reaching out to those who are at high risk and are hard to reach, with a human rights approach to drug abuse prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services.