"UNPLUGGED", for preventing drug use in schools through West Africa

This activity was funded by the European Union

Abuja, 14 November 2017 - Drug use, trafficking, production and cultivation of illicit substances affect most countries in the world. They pose public health, development and security problems both in industrialized and developing countries. According to different UNODC assessment reports, West Africa faces major drugs related problems, mainly high prevalence use of cannabis, cocaine/crack and to lesser extent heroine with its negative health and social consequences.

Drug use amongst adolescents in Africa has been increasing over the years; and this has caught the attention of government officials and the international community to fight against drug use and protect the African youth. Training of medical and social personnel has become essential in improving knowledge, skills and practices to address drug dependence. But covering all the training needs identified remains a challenge and even less affect the school settings where drug use amongst adolescents/students in Africa has been increasing over the years. 

To address these gaps the UNODC organized from 14-16 November in Abuja, Nigeria, a " Regional workshop for the dissemination of the "UNPLUGGED" programme on drug prevention in schools in West Africa." This activity was held in collaboration with ECOWAS Commission in the framework of the Project Support to ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in West Africa  that is entirely funded by the European Union (Abuja Office).

The workshop gathered professionals from Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Liberia Member States. UNODC staffs and consultants was part of this pioneering initiative. Officials from UNODC, ECOWAS, EU and Nigeria attended the meeting and told their faith in activities of the kind for the positive impact they could have among youth if managed properly within ECOWAS Member States. The Nigerian experience was showcased to demonstrate the successful implementation of the programme.



  The UNPLUGGED training workshop for preventing drug use in schools, Abuja, 14-16 November, ©UNODC 2017

On behalf of all the participants, Mr. NGUESSAN BI KOUAME Joseph, a delegate from Côte d'Ivoire, stressed that "UNPLUGGED is an effective tool for preventing drugs use in schools", and expressed the "commitment of countries to implement it at national levels."

During the first Regional Scientific Conference organized in February 2017 in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, and which objective was to share knowledge, best practices and recent research findings on the issues of drug use and addiction, UNPLUGGED Programme was introduced as an evidence-based tool and has received much attention and interest from Member States that attended the consultation. 

Strongly convinced by the potential of this program to achieve goals on drug demand reduction among adolescents, UNODC made a follow-up that resulted on this inaugural workshop in Abuja. The meeting aimed to give a regional platform for national authorities and relevant education institutions, especially the ECOWAS Commission Departments of Education, Science and Culture and the Department of Social Affairs and Gender, for them to identify the procedural and content elements needed for the implementation of the "Unplugged" tool in West Africa.  

 UNODC and its partners will developped this innovative programme in the mentionned pilot countries. The approach is to define a comprehensive and clear roadmap for the inception of Unplugged into the education curriculum (including elements of adaptation) in the region. ECOWAS will support the advocacy activities for Unplugged programme development in West Africa.

The Unplugged programme is a European Union drug abuse prevention initiative introduced to ECOWAS countries by University College Ghent (Belgium). It is a school-based prevention program which target young people aged 12-14 years and their parents, and is based on a life skills education and social influences approach. The program goals are: increased health related awareness and knowledge of social influences; delayed onset of drug use; improved knowledge, attitudes and skills concerning health behaviors and drug use; reduction in the use of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis and a reduction in the likelihood of future drug abuse. 

UNODC has been providing technical assistance to West African States for 20 years, through its Regional Office for West and Central Africa (ROSEN) based in Dakar, Senegal and 10 others Offices based in different countries of the region. As a guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (CTO) and its Protocols, as well as the three Conventions on International Drug Control, UNODC is mandated to assist Member States in strengthening their National responses, in accordance with their international obligations.


For more information:

UNODC action against drug trafficking in West Africa

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

UNODC Sahel Programme