Preventing drug abuse in the Middle East


HEMAYA campaign logo14 May 2008 - UNODC's Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa has just concluded a regional awareness campaign on drug abuse, with a particular focus on youth. The campaign, HEMAYA, was organized in collaboration with the Dubai Police, the Right Start International Foundation, and several prominent leaders and intellectuals in the fields of media, sports, and culture.

According to the 2007 World Drug Report, the production and distribution of illicit drugs, particularly cannabis, continues to be a worrying trend in the Middle East and North Africa. Increasing drug abuse has accompanied this trend. 

The campaign covered much of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the Maghreb countries, Yemen, the Palestinian Territories and Qatar. Massive information dissemination was accompanied by organized events that took place in schools, universities, youth clubs, local companies and popular public places.

"The campaign coincides with the General Assembly's commemoration of a decade's hard work by governments and civil society following the Political Declaration of the Special Session of the General Assembly to counter the world's drug problem 10 years ago," said UNODC Regional Representative, Mr. Mohamed Abdul-Aziz. "The campaign has had a positive effect not only in Egypt, but also at the regional level."

Thousands of events, including concerts, school conferences, marathons and training sessions, were organized to raise awareness on the dangers of drug abuse and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Satellite TV stations supported the campaign by airing programmes on drug-related topics. And through rallying the support of existing outreach programmes and call centers, the campaign successfully encouraged thousands of drug abusers to seek treatment.

At the campaign's closing ceremony in Cairo, Mr. Abdul-Aziz took the opportunity to highlight UNODC's pivotal role in advocating effective drug prevention policies. He also extended special thanks to the thousands of volunteers and civil society organizations who contributed to achieving the campaigns' objectives.

The awareness campaign is part of a broader regional drug control programme to develop and implement drug control strategies. It will also strengthen the Dubai Police to facilitate training of national and regional law enforcement staff.