By Columbus Mavhunga
A group of concerned Zimbabweans has started an anti-alcohol and drug campaign, targeting communities in which unemployed young people resort to drinking and using narcotics to alleviate the stress of not having work. Those involved in the campaign say the solution lies largely with improving the country’s moribund economy.
Fewer than three in 10 young Zimbabweans have steady jobs. Many are idle and see no economic opportunity. For some, that leads to problems with alcohol and drugs.
Church leaders, community leaders, and government officials have started warning youths of the impact of drug and alcohol abuse in Zimbabwe and its effect on their physical well-being and mental health.
With drug use growing in Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has called for an all-stakeholders meeting on February 1 to come up with possible solutions.
Zimbabwe’s deputy director of Mental Health Services, Dr. Chido Rwafa, says the government cannot deal with the problem of substance abuse alone.
“Alcohol and substance use is a rising problem in all of Africa, and also in Zimbabwe, and it has become one of our top three diagnoses that we are seeing in our mental health unit, so it is becoming a problem. We need a coordinated approach to this problem. It is a multi-sectorial problem. We need a combined effort between government, between non-governmental organizations, with the community itself,” Rwafa said.
Youths are susceptible to peer pressure and can easily gain access to drugs, says Rwafa. Once hooked on drugs, they also become more likely to engage in criminal activities.
This 20-year-old asked us not to film him when he was smoking cannabis. He says drug use would fall if more people could find employment.
“The best way is just to improve our country economically such that all those people loitering in the streets will find jobs and will be focused. We are going nowhere. Even if you are to look (in the streets), there are some other people damaged (by drugs). Fifty percent of youths in the streets, they can not even work. Their life has been destructed by drugs etc. It is not that they want drug abuse,” Mandizha said.
Roman Catholic Priest Cloudy Maganga is trying to reduce substance abuse by youths by keeping them busy and offering counseling.
“Within our hall, upstairs we are creating what we call a study center for the young people. We will have computers… We have also started what we call the sports for the young people. We have created a volleyball pitch, we have created also a netball pitch for the young people so that when they are free, during their free time, they can be engaged in sports, everyone here. So at least with that we are removing them from being just idle,” Maganga said.
While that may help, when young people have finished playing, they still find themselves unemployed and in the same conditions youths like Takudzwa Mandizha say make them turn to drugs.