Somalia’s Devastating Drug Problem is Destroying its Youth

By Emily Thompson

Somalia has a drug problem and it is only getting worse. This complex and multifaceted issue has plagued the country for decades. It has a population of around 15 million people, and has been affected by civil war, terrorism, and other forms of violence for many years. Now, drugs have become the people’s worst enemy – and it is the youth who are becoming most affected.

One of the major contributing factors to the drug problem is the country’s location. Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa, and is bordered by Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Gulf of Aden. Situated along the East African coast, it is a prime transit point for illicit drugs coming from Asia and South America. The drugs are often smuggled into the country through the ports and airports, and are then distributed to other parts of Africa and beyond.

Another factor that has contributed to the problem is the ongoing conflict and instability in the country. The civil war and the presence of terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab have made it easier for criminal networks to operate and smuggle drugs into the country. These criminal networks often use the proceeds from drug sales to fund their activities, including terrorism.

The problem is not limited to the illegal trade in drugs, however. The country also suffers from a high rate of drug abuse, particularly among young people. This is due in part to the widespread poverty and lack of access to education and other basic services. Many young people turn to drugs as a way to cope with the challenges they face, and this has led to a significant increase in drug abuse and addiction in the country. This has serious consequences for their health, well-being, and future prospects.

In addition to the physical and mental health impacts of drug abuse, the drug problem in Somalia also has serious economic consequences for the country’s youth. Many young people who become addicted to drugs are unable to work or pursue educational opportunities, which limits their ability to contribute to the country’s development and build a better future for themselves.

The drug problem in Somalia also has social and cultural impacts on the country’s youth. Drug abuse is often stigmatized and can lead to social isolation and discrimination, which can further compound the negative effects of drug abuse and addiction.

Although more Somalis are turning to harder drugs, the prevalent drug in Somalia is Khat (pronounced “cot”), a stimulant drug derived from a shrub (Catha edulis) that is generally chewed in order to obtain the “high” it produces. Khat is typically chewed and retained in the cheek to be re-chewed on an intermittent basis, much in the same way that tobacco is chewed. Khat leaves can also be made into a tea, a paste that can be chewed, or a powder that can be used or sprinkled on food. It can also be smoked. The drug isn’t well-known by the American public, but according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, officials are already combating its effects.

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According to Recovery First Treatment Center,

Drug addiction is an uncontrolled, devastating problem for the lawless land of Somalia. In a country torn by decades of war, famine, drought and wholesale ethnic cleansing, a large portion of the population has turned to drugs as their only means of escape.

Recovery First also sounds the alarm over the fact that at Khat houses in the UK and other European countries, Somali militants are directly targeting the young men that abuse the drug for work in jihad camps and terrorist plots – a problem that has existed for over a decade, as evidenced by at least one report on the matter. Understanding this problem is critical, as Khat is becoming an increasingly more widely used drug in the United States – a significant terrorist target.

The government of Somalia has made efforts to address the drug problem in the country, but these efforts have been hampered by a lack of resources and capacity. The government has implemented a number of measures to combat drug trafficking and abuse, including strengthening law-enforcement efforts, improving border controls, and increasing public awareness about the dangers of drug abuse.

These efforts have had limited success due to the ongoing conflict and instability in the country, as well as the lack of resources. In addition, the government has been unable to effectively implement and enforce these measures, which has contributed to the continued prevalence of drugs.

A BBC report this week notes that whereas people chew khat – which is not illegal – drink alcohol, sniff glue or smoke hashish, more and more people are abusing opioids, which they inject directly into their veins. These include morphine, tramadol, pethidine and codeine.

A 2015 report on drug use in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, warned that alcohol and drug abuse are rapidly increasing and claiming lives; the police chief added that nearly 50 percent of all the crimes committed in Mogadishu are either drug- or alcohol-related.

The Mama Ugaaso Foundation, which focuses on drug abuse among young people in Somalia, including girls, works to move the youth away from drug abuse and back into healthy activities such as sports, through education and awareness workshops.

This serious and complex issue requires immediate attention and action. Most importantly, it has significant consequences for the country’s youth and, thus, the entire country’s future. It is essential that the government and other stakeholders take action to address the root causes of drug abuse and addiction and provide support to those who are struggling with substance abuse. This could include improving access to education and other basic services, as well as providing treatment and rehabilitation services for those who are struggling with addiction.

The serious consequences that drug use represents for the country’s social and economic development should not be discounted, and addressing it will require a concerted effort by the government, international organizations, and civil society.

Image: Pixabay

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