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Drug abuse on the rise in Kenya

NAIROBI, June 26 – Kenya has recorded a rise in the use of hard drugs like opium and heroine, according to a UN report released Thursday.

While releasing the report, Dr Reychad Abdool of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said the use of opium, which is a narcotic drug used in the manufacture of heroine had increased by 0.1 percent to reach 0.3 percent.

"Consumption is very much market-related. You are looking at supply and demand therefore what has to be done by the law enforcement officers, customs and immigrations has to go hand in hand with education, prevention and treatment," he stated.

The report further stated that Kenya was among the top countries with people injecting heroine but had been stable in the use of cocaine at 0.1 percent.

"If you look at the whole continent, the countries that have the highest rate of injection are Mauritius, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria and Togo," Dr Abdool remarked.

"Given the relatively high rate of HIV prevalence in Kenya at 5.1 percent, (although it) has been dropping in the last decade, it’s still an issue of concern because it could reverse this".

It was reported that nine out of 10 drug users used heroine and one out of 10 were women.

"Governments must remain vigilant in drug control," Dr Abdool commented.

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However, the Criminal Investigations Department noted that there was no upsurge of drug trafficking in the last six months that followed the post election violence.

State counsel Dorcas Oduor said crucial legislation, including the witness protection programme to be enforced in July had been put in place to assist in the fight against drug use.

"We cannot decrease drug use unless laws are stiff enough," she said.

Oduor said the Anti Narcotics Bill which would also assist in the elimination of illicit drug use was in the committee stage and would be enacted soon.

Other bills she cited were the Anti-Money Laundering and Organized Crimes bills.

"These bills are being fought because some people feel they are not homegrown and are meant to benefit other countries but with this report they will now know that we are also affected," Oduor said.

The global report based on data provided by governments in a report called the Annual Report Questionnaire, also indicated that illicit drug use was stabilizing and decreasing in the developed countries unlike in developing nations where it was on the rise.

Dr Abdool said though indicators of the world drug situation remained favorable over the long term, there were recent warning signs that must be heeded to.

A global and long term perspective revealed that illicit drug use had been contained to less than five percent of the adult population.

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The report provides evidence of a surge in the supply of illicit drugs in 2007. Afghanistan had a record opium harvest and world opium production almost doubled between 2005 and 2007.

It recommended that drug control be looked into the larger context of crime prevention and the rule of law in order to cut links between drug trafficking, organized crime, corruption and terrorism.

"Some of the world’s biggest producing regions (in Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar) are out of control of the central government. Drug trafficking is undermining national security because some use the money for terrorist financing," the report stated in part.

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