"WENDU" : Stepping up reliable data collection and management in West Africa

 

This activity was funded by the European Union

Abuja, 22 November 2017 - Illicit drug supply and drug use pose enormous challenges to countries in West Africa. Therefore, sustainable solutions must be proposed to overcome the lack of reliable evidence for policy formulation and evaluation of interventions in the region. It is imperative that mechanisms to monitor the extent, patterns and trends of drug demand and illicit drug supply be strengthened to inform national and regional responses to the menace. 

The ECOWAS Regional Plan is a major step towards this objective. Making available valid and reliable data to assess the magnitude of the drug trafficking and abuse problems affecting the region on a sustainable basis is one of the five thematic areas outlined in the Plan. The West African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (WENDU) was therefore established in response to the need to strengthen surveillance with respect to illicit drug supply and drug use in the region.

In this respect, UNODC organized in Abuja, on 22-23 November 2017, a technical experts meeting of WENDU as well as a regional workshop on collection, analysis, reporting of data and strengthening of national information systems on drug use.

These workshops were held in collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission and in the framework of the UNODC project entitled  Support to ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in West Africa that is entirely funded by the European Union (Abuja Office).

 
Group photo of the WENDU training workshop, Abuja, Nigeria, November 2017 ©UNODC/2017

 

The meeting was attended by WENDU national focal points from the 15 ECOWAS Member States and Mauritania, drug use epidemiologists, and drug demand reduction experts from and outside the West African region. Participants seized the opportunity to discuss harmonized data collection and information on drug use epidemiology in the region, while WENDU also took a strategic step in mentoring staff members of selected pilot drug treatment facilities on drug use data collection. 

National focal points, through that training, strengthened their capacity to better achieve common objectives that are: collecting and analyzing high quality data on drug use; preparing national surveys regarding illicit drug supply and use in their respective countries. 

Previous activities held by WENDU paved the way to that Abuja meeting. A first meeting of technical experts gathered West African epidemiologists in July 2016 in Abuja, during which reports about drug use in the countries were presented and discussed. A second experts meeting in Dakar (September 2016), reunited WENDU focal points and epidemiologists from the 15 ECOWAS Member States and Mauritania on the collection and analysis of data on drug use and estimation of size of drug users among the general population. During that workshop, most of the participants expressed interest in having further hands-on training on the collection, analysis of data and reporting of drug use.

During the November Abuja regional meeting, national focal points for WENDU expressed commitment to leading drug use data management processes in their respective countries.

Furthermore, they have the responsibility of developing the capacity of public health workers, epidemiologists, legal and forensic workers, and relevant stakeholders in Member States in methods and techniques necessary for monitoring drug situation. 

These previous and planned activities will lead to efficient programming for drug demand reduction and supply suppression. In addition, the completion rates of the Annual Reports Questionnaire (used by the UNODC in monitoring world drug situation) may also improve in West Africa following the training of national focal points on drug use data collection.

UNODC has been providing technical assistance to West African States for 20 years, through its Regional Office for West and Central Africa (ROSEN) based in Dakar, Senegal and 10 others Offices based in different countries of the region. As a guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (CTO) and its Protocols, as well as the three Conventions on International Drug Control, UNODC is mandated to assist Member States in strengthening their National responses, in accordance with their international obligations.UNODC has devoted part of its technical assistance to States, advocating that drug-related disorders, including addiction, are recognized as a health problem. In this regard, the objective is to promote a scientific approach; thus, encouraging member states to develop policies and strategies based on scientific evidences for the prevention and the treatment of drug addiction disorders.

 

For more information:

UNODC action against drug trafficking in West Africa

Support Project to ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on illicit drug trafficking in West Africa

UNODC Sahel Programme