The ECOWAS Project supports the establishment of an information platform on drug use in West Africa

This activity was funded by the European Union

Dakar, September 29, 2016- Drug consumption is a major risk to public health in West Africa. The study of the existing situation in the region reveals a huge need for the prevention of drug use as well as the support and treatment of drug users. In most ECOWAS Member States, healthcare systems do not have the financial resources to adequately meet the demand for treatment; particularly regarding to arrangements for care and rehabilitation. Furthermore, the lack of reliable data is a major handicap to the formulation of prevention policies as well as to reducing drug demand.

The Political Declaration of the ECOWAS on Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime in West Africa and the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan have resulted from the need for valid and reliable data to assess the gravity of the issues that drug abuse and trafficking inflict on the region.  The Network of West African Epidemiology of Drug Use (WENDU) has been created for this purpose.

To address the gap in epidemiological data on the demand and consumption of drugs, the UNODC organized a "Regional Workshop on The Collection and Analysis of Data on the Use of drugs and the Estimation size of Drug Users Among the General Population" in Dakar between 26-29 of September.

 
Participants to the Regional training workshop for West African Experts of the WENDU Network, Dakar, Senegal 2016 ©UNODC/2016

 The workshop is part of the support program dubbed as the " Regional ECOWAS Action Plan against Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime related to it and Drug Abuse in West Africa," that is funded by the European Union and implemented by the UNODC in collaboration with the ECOWAS. One of the key-points of this plan (axis 5) advocates for the establishment of reliable data collection mechanisms in order to continuously assess the extent of issues that drug trafficking and abuse impose on the region.

The objective of this training was to provide the tools to evaluate the importance of existing sources of information as well as the quality of epidemiological data on drug use. Furthermore, the training helped to better understand the methods and appropriate tools for collecting data on drug use and to estimate the number of drug users within the population.

According to Pierre Lapaque, the Regional Representative of the UNODC; "Having reliable epidemiological data is to also highlight the health consequences of drug trafficking by criminal networks. Reliable, impartial and comparable methods of data collection enable us to refine our methods of work and intervention due to information that is processed by specialists".

Antoine Gouzée, the Regional Coordinator of the European Union in Dakar, stressed the importance of consistent data to understand the phenomenon of supply and demand.

According to the representative of the Ministry of Health and Social Action in Senegal, "this workshop will improve the collection and analysis of epidemiological data due to reliable methods chosen by experts".

Regional Workshop Training of the WENDU Network in Dakar, Senegal © UNODC/2016

Forty specialists and experts from the ECOWAS countries and Mauritania came together for four days to discuss on the most appropriate methodologies for data collection in the region.

Kamran Niaz, a UNODC expert (Section Research and Analysis, Vienna), Pernell Clarke, a researcher of the Inter-American Observatory on Drugs (OAS) and Nadine Catherine of the the Epidemiology Network of Southern Africa (SACENDU), shared their knowledge and lessons-learned with West African experts.

Experts discussed on targeted modules such as the monitoring of drug use, drug observatories and epidemiological networks, national surveys on drug use, the estimate of the prevalence and extent of drug use, the implementation of surveys on drug use as well as the preparation of national reports on drugs in West Africa. As stated by the participants themselves; the Dakar meeting has been a crucial step towards a harmonized system of data management on drugs in West Africa.

The UNODC has provided technical assistance to West African States for the past 20 years through its Regional Office for West and Central Africa (ROSEN) in Dakar, Senegal and 10 other local offices based in different countries of the region. As a guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) and its Protocols, as well as the three Conventions on International Drug Control; the UNODC is mandated to assist Member States to strengthen their national response capacities on the matter, in accordance with their international obligations.

 

For more d'information:

UNODC action against drug trafficking in West Africa

Support Project to ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on illicit drug trafficking in West Africa