15 August 2017 - The right to health is one of the fundamental human rights, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Goal 3.
In line with both, the Government of Nigeria has put in place measures to tackle the issue of drug demand in the country; however, drug treatment is mainly concentrated in tertiary hospitals in capital cities and it remains expensive, with few civil society organizations having limited capacity and funding to respond to drug use disorders.
In this regard, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently organized a three-day conference in Nigeria where the federal law makers had a heart-to-heart dialogue on a comprehensive and holistic approach to address drug demand and supply under a human rights based approach.
The event took place under the auspices of 'Response to drugs and related organized crime in Nigeria' project funded by the European Union and implemented by UNODC. The projects aims to support Nigeria's efforts in fighting drug production, trafficking and use, and in curbing organised crime.
Throughout the event, participants discussed, among others, rehabilitation and reintegration of drug users, social stigma, the lack of data, and the need for evidence-based policies to achieve demand and supply reduction.
Together with international and national drug control experts, senators and members of the House of Representative Committees on Drugs and Narcotics took through the whole gamut of United Nations Drug Control Conventions and ongoing policy dialogue with a view to generating informed interventions in line with best practices while taking into account the local realities.
The interactive and participatory briefing included visual presentations of local practices that are at variance with the international ones. During the conference, the legislators also visited two drop-in centers in Uyo, which are supported by the project and operated by local civil society organizations that deliver drug services.
Many participants stressed the urgent need for a change in the narrative on the drug problem and the response to it through actions. These included extensive community-based sensitization, awareness raising and education on the harms of drugs, capacity building of professional staff working on drug treatment, and the expansion of treatment, as well as the provision of continuity of care, including creating specialized centers for women and internally displaced people. Additionally, they resolved to prioritize strengthening of the capacity of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in drug supply reduction, and raising its profile.
The participants also made a commitment to support the paradigm shift to ensure the availability, access to, and control of narcotics and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes such as morphine in line with the recently adopted National Drug Control Master Plan.