26 June 2020, Pretoria: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in South Africa, in collaboration with the Government and other partners, today commemorated this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking with the launch of the 2020 World Drug Report at an event held in Johannesburg. This year’s global theme is, “Better Knowledge for Better Care”.
Presenting this year’s report on the global drug use trends and key findings, the head of UNODC in the Southern Africa region, Ms. Zhuldyz Akisheva, said the report “highlights the need to understand better the dynamics and factors related to drug use and to propose solutions that are balanced, health-centred and based on scientific evidence.”
“While the report shows that the drug problem is bigger and more complex today than one or two decades ago, and despite the many declarations agreed at international level to resolve the problem, the actual response of the international community is weaker today then what it was before,” she said.
The UNODC 2020 World Drug Report shows that globally, only one in eight people with drug use disorders has access to treatment services. Moreover, while one in three drug users is a woman, women continue to account for only one in five or less people in treatment.
In an effort to gain an understanding of the challenges faced by women who use drugs, UNODC and the South African Network of People Who Use Drugs (SANPUD) conducted a needs assessment in four South African cities of Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. The results of the study revealed high levels of trauma and sexual violence experienced by women coupled with insufficient access to health services, unacceptable violence by law enforcement and abuse of human rights.
People who inject drugs are often subject to marginalization and stigmatization, which create social and economic barriers to accessing public health services. A joint report by UNODC, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and the World Bank estimated that in 2018, more than 11 million people worldwide aged 15-64 injected themselves with drugs, with South Africa accounting for about 75,000 of them.
Among the several officials who also spoke at the same occasion was South Africa’s Minister of Social Development, Ms. Lindiwe Zulu, who told the audience that when it came to the challenges of drugs and substance abuse, “it’s all about behavioral change”.
Ms. Akisheva reminded the audience that the two core principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are to “ensure that no one is left behind” and to “reach the furthest behind first”. People who use drugs are some of the first to be left behind in almost all circumstances, she noted.
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