UNODC launches new Listen First series, ‘Super Skills,’ aimed to make children more resilient against drug use

Vienna (Austria), 20 November 2021 – On this year’s World Children’s Day, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a new series of the ‘Listen First’ initiative – the Science of Skills. The new series will focus on social and emotional skill development as a foundation for drug use prevention in children and early adolescents.

“Drug use prevention based on science is an effective investment in a healthy future,” said Ms. Ghada Waly, Executive Director, UNODC. She added “Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its disruptions to education and social interactions, the new phase of UNODC’s ‘Listen First’ initiative offers valuable support for children to develop skills which help them build resilience to drug use, and empower them against adversity.”

Five new animated videos, accompanied by fact-sheets, will demonstrate the Super Team characters facing common life challenges and using social and emotional skills to help solve problems. They each have what some people might consider a disability – a big nose, big ears, big eyes, big hands. However, the Super Team uses their Super Skills to help themselves, their friends, and their communities in times of difficulty. The new materials will guide children on important life values such as compassion, empathy, motivation, integrity, and respect; all of which are essential in social and emotional learning, and healthy development.

In Nigeria, UNODC has been working with the Federal Ministry of Education and several State Commissioners of Education in seeking to help making children, in particular teenagers, more resilient to drug use by adapting and implementing UNPLUGGED, an evidence based life-skill training which has been rolled out across hundreds of federal as well as select State secondary schools under the EU funded project Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime.

Since 2016, a total of more than than 850 secondary school teachers have been trained on the delivery of the UNPLUGGED and over 50,000 secondary school children have participated in UNPLUGGED with some encouraging impact in terms of reduced and delayed drug use prevalence, improved awareness and sensitivity in dealing with drug use among peers, as well as general improvements in the social climate in participating schools as well as academic performance.

More recently, and with a view to reaching the large percentage of out-of-school children, the project has also partnered with the Nigerian Presidency in the implementation of the At-Risk-Children Project by introducing the Line Up Live Up, a life skill training using sports to reach out of school children.

The new materials developed under the Listen First Initiative are a welcome set of additional tools that can be used by teachers and others working with children in helping them with the challenges of growing up, including the temptations and risks of drug use.