Cairo (Egypt), 29 April 2020 – During crises like the current pandemic it is important to recall universal human values, unite our forces to work together, and to leave no one behind, which means including people who use drugs, with drug use disorders and their families.
On the 21st and 22nd of April 2020, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organized a transregional online training on epidemiological considerations and the roles and responsibilities of institutions involved in reducing drug demand during the Corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic. The training brought together 27 doctors and psychiatrists from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
A result of fruitful efforts by UNODC’s Office for the Gulf Cooperation Council Region (OGCCR) and the Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa (ROMENA) and with vital substance delivered by Wadih Maalouf, UNODC Global Programme Coordinator for the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, the training aimed at the exchange of successful practices between Egypt and the UAE in addressing drug demand during COVID-19, reflect on the United Nations International Standards and support the national efforts undertaken by the Member States in this regard.
In his opening remarks Hatem Aly, UNODC Regional Representative for the Gulf Cooperation Council highlighted that, “Leaving no one behind, is more than a slogan, in such critical point of history, it is the core of our work, aim of our efforts and the commonly shared principle with our long-standing partners in FDCTA Egypt and NRC UAE. People with drug dependency and use disorders and their families are already in destress, and relatively, even more vulnerable during the COVID-19 crises. Thus, this training focuses on looking at the relevant international standards in conjunction with the best current practices of both our partners and their innovative services and support practices with the aim of developing a “standard guideline” on drug treatment service continuity with ultimate support that seeks to adopt the “safety first” principle.”
UNODC experts introduced “Suggestions about treatment, care and rehabilitation of people with drug use disorder in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic” through which Member States and drug treatment, care and rehabilitation systems and services could develop plans to ensure continuity of care for people who use drugs and people with drug use disorders. Some of the suggestions focused on addressing continued access to the services, securing the safety of the staff and the patients at the services and referring to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on disinfecting premises where the services are being provided.
“Our joint efforts are necessary in the current time, COVID-19 can indirectly cost many lives and pose multiple risks if key necessary services are halted or not provided. Ensuring access to health care and services for people who use drugs, treatment of drug use disorders and reducing drug demand is key to protect the lives of many,” Cristina Albertin, UNODC Regional Representative for the Middle East and North Africa had commented.
The training also sparked discussions on the role of decision and policy makers in reducing drug demand during the epidemic, the mental health considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic and how parenting skills could be strengthened to prevent negative coping behaviors.