Islamic Republic of Iran

UNODC Iran Forum Seeks to Empower Children Vulnerable to Illicit Drug Use

10 June 2014 - Children vulnerable to drugs have been the target group of a number of successful educational interventions by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Country Office in Iran (UNODC Iran) in the framework of its drug prevention programmes in the past few years. Homeless/street children, children in care institutions, in labour, in juvenile correction centres, and children of drug using parents, are among the groups prone to earlier, more frequent, or more problematic drug use. As levels of developing drug-related problems are likely to be much higher for these groups, they are being given special attention in terms of drug demand reduction responses, especially considering that Iran is suffering from an emerging trend of drug use spreading among youth and women.

Within this framework, UNODC Iran, in collaboration with the Drug Control Headquarters of Iran (DCHQ), organized a Forum entitled: "Vulnerable Children and Drug Use: What is to be done?" on 25 and 26 May 2014 in Tehran. The objectives of the event included reviewing the situation and existing services for vulnerable children in Iran and exploring possible responses. It brought together forty seven experts representing the DCHQ; State Welfare Organization; State Prisons, Security and Corrective Measures Organization; Tehran Municipality; the Ministry of Education; Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare; Ministry of Health and Medical Education; Juvenile Correctional and Education Center of Mashhad; Social Workers Association of Iran; Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Association; academia; and a number of NGOs based in Tehran, Karaj and Mashhad. In addition, relevant officers from UNAIDS, UNICEF and WHO offices in Iran also participated in this forum.

Mr. Boonwaat and Ms. Elizabeth Mattfeld/Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Section/UNODC Headquarters at the opening session
Ms. Mattfeld presenting the results of the UNODC project in Afghanistan

Addressing the participants at the opening session, the UNODC Representative in Iran, Mr. Leik Boonwaat, stated: "This gathering indicates the significance of cooperative efforts between governmental and nongovernmental organizations on improving the situation of vulnerable children. It is very fortunate that UNODC Iran, together with the Iranian Drug Control Headquarters, are tackling the problem of drugs among vulnerable children".

The two-day forum started with an overview of the current situation, which was presented by a number of experts from relevant Iranian entities through reviewing the assessment of drug use among children and adolescents, available reports and news on the children affected by drugs in Iran, and the results of the small-scale evaluation of drug treatment services to children under 14 years of age in the country. Next, some aspects of the responses to the issue of drugs and children were explored, including the UNODC's life skills training manual being piloted for street children, and the results of the UNODC project in Afghanistan on psychosocial protocols for children, adolescents and their families, among others. The participants were then divided into working groups to brain-storm on the actions required to improve the existing situation. The forum concluded with practical recommendations for implementation and inter-sectoral collaboration on psychosocial and brief interventions among children vulnerable to drugs.

Working groups in action

Working groups in action

Sajjad is one of the children participating in the life skill training at the Golzar Alavi orphanage in Mashhad. Considered as a source of trouble and abandoned by his stepfather, Sajjad was sent by his mother to the orphanage. When he returned to his family some time ago, four months after the initiation of the life skills training, his teacher received a phone call from his mother. "He is a whole new child, he is communicating with his stepfather, he is quite a gentleman…What did you do to him?!" Sajjad's mother asked, expressing satisfaction and surprise with the clear positive behavioural change of her son.

Among the UNODC Iran activities tailored for vulnerable children is the implementation of the "Strengthening Family Programme (SFP)" in 2013 in Karaj with the participation of a number of street children and their parents, which is currently being evaluated for further improvement. Another valuable activity is the ongoing pilot of a drug prevention life skills training manual among vulnerable children in the cities of Tehran, Karaj and Mashhad, which is generally drawing positive feedback.