UNODC Eastern Africa Speeches

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Regional Launch of the 2020 World Drug Report

Welcoming remarks by Amado Philip de Andrés, UNODC Regional Representative

Nairobi, 26 June 2020

Good morning, thank you for joining us today.

It’s my pleasure to welcome you to the first virtual commemoration of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and the first e-launch of UNODC’s flagship report, the World Drug Report 2020.

COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have jointly faced since the formation of the UN, and it is pushing us to become innovators in our respective fields.  The unprecedented crisis and the challenges that COVID brings our way are complex and many still be misunderstood or underestimated.  

It is clear that criminal organizations are not in a “wait and see” state, and people who use drugs continue to be neglected as their health status deteriorates and access to prevention and treatment services is in full decline.

While the impact of the pandemic on drug markets is hard to predict, it could be far reaching.  What we know, is that the aspects of production, the access to precursors, the movement limitation, routing and means of transportation across borders are being challenged by COVID, but make no mistake: criminals will innovate and redefine their business models. 

There is a likelihood that drug use may fall due to the COVID mitigation measures, but this will be short-lived.  When availability drops, experience show us that shortages lead to overdoses when supply eventually returns.

There is already a rise in levels of unemployment and lack of opportunities. In fact, in the latest Infotrack Survey in Kenya, 80% of the respondents reported being unable to pay rent, and 47% could hardly afford basic needs such as food. These are conditions that can make it more difficult for the poorest to see no options but to engage in harmful patterns of drug use, suffer drug use disorders and turn to illicit activities linked to drugs to support themselves.

The Report:

This year’s Report contains our core chapters with the latest global analysis and trends on both demand and supply.   My colleagues will go over the numbers and graphs in details, but in a nutshell, the number of people who use drugs and those that suffer from drug use disorders continue to rise every year with no sign of slowing down.   

Drug use increased far more rapidly among developing countries over the 18 years than in developed countries. The problem is at our doorstep.

Africa accounted for 19 per cent of all quantities of marijuana seized (second largest after the Americas), and for 8 per cent of all hashish seized during the reporting period.  As for cocaine, while remaining modest by global standards, the quantities seized on this continent grew significantly and exceeded global growth.

Cannabis continues to grow in cultivation and consumption all over Africa, and our youth are becoming top consumers.

The report shows that the quantities of heroin seized on the continent have increased by 10-fold since 2008 and doubled in 2018 compared to the previous reporting year.  Seizures made in Africa represented 2% of the global heroin and morphine seizures in 2018 - most originating from Afghanistan.   

This data is important.  It is devastating for the communities at the receiving end, including in East Africa.   

Treatment and Prevention:

Prevention programmes addressing life skills are a strategic investment - the return on investment is more than 1200%.

There has been progress in the last 5-6 years on access to treatment, but it is a dent in the problem at best. Treatment and prevention are nowhere near at the level they need to be.

Opioids are deadly. This category remains the most harmful of the drugs addressed in the report. Over the past decade, the total number of deaths due to opioid use disorders went up 71%, with a 92% increase among women compared with 63% among men.  My colleagues will unpack the situation of non-medical use of opioids, including tramadol which was flagged as a sustained threat for West, Central and North Africa.  

Need for increased inter-regional collaboration: 

Part of the success we have experienced globally and in this region is due to stronger international collaboration in recent years.  In this region, we have seen successful collaboration from law enforcement and the intelligence community. 

On the treatment and prevention side, we have seen an encouraging degree of good practice-sharing - Seychelles visiting Kenya, Kenya visiting Tanzania and Mauritius to see what works and how to tailor it. These 4 countries offer opioid substitution treatment as part of the HIV/AIDS.

What are the results on global drug control?

Yesterday, at the official launch of the report in Vienna, a reporter asked our Executive Director in UNODC Vienna HQs, Austria, if after so many years in seeing drug use rise, the efforts made are really producing the impact we want. I want to echo her response today. 

Globally, the level of investments in drug control is far from the commitments made and development assistance pledges of governments.  We need to do better on this front, and after COVID, the likelihood of seeing and increase in coming years is of concern.   

Better knowledge:

This year the report looks at the evidence regarding the relationship of socioeconomic characteristics and drug use disorders. Unfortunately, most the research done on this front comes from the West, and the report provides little elements of response for this continent.  

This brings me to make a call that I have been doing for the last years: we need data, but not just any data.  We need data that is sound and relevant for the context.   


  1. Prevention and care accompanied with bold supply reduction efforts is what will ensure we all cross the finish line in 2030 and that we provide a sustainable response during and after COVID-19.
  2. Better statistical data and analysis will ensure sustainable Government policies, coupled with national budgetary allocations.

 Thank you very much for being with us today in this event!