PRISON and Correctional Services facilities have become hot-spots for drug and substance abuse with indications that both correctional officers and inmates were engaging in illicit use of substances and harmful drugs, a top Zimbabwe Prisons and and Correctional Service (ZPCS) health expert has warned.
By Patricia Mashiri
To reduce the growing burden of drug and substance abuse in these institutions, the ZPCS, ZRP, Spotlight (Brotha 2 brotha initiative) and the National AIDS Council have come together to sensitize these communities on the effects of drug and substance use.
Speaking to Health Times at the event which took place over the weekend at Harare Central Prison , Chief Health Director ZPCS, Dr Evidence Gaka said they statistics of drug and substance abuse and mental health related cases have of late been growing in their spaces.
As ZPCS we are faced with high mental health burden. I’m in reference to the officers, inmates and our dependants. It’s something that we are aware of . The very high burden of mental health problem is solely a result of drug and substance abuse. Unfortunately we only come to contact with these people when they are already sick but efforts are being made to address this at national level. We have special institutions in our Prisons where we help inmates with mental health problems. As of yesterday at Chikurubi Maximum prison we had 471 mental patients of which the majority is of drug and substance abuse,” said Dr Gaka.
Dr Gaka highlighted that both Chikurubi and Kami special institutions have about one thousand mental patients which are in their care. He added that the youths constitute the highest number of the affected people.
The awareness campaign was inclusive It included ball games netball, volleyball and football for primary, secondary and tertiary institutions as well as those out of school the wives of the prison officers.
The Sponsor of the event Mr Jaison Passade, hailed the turnout as it was of a noble cause.
“The drug and substance abuse have turned into a global war which needs to be addressed. The young people are the mostly affected by this pandemic. Iam happy because of the great turn out it means we are going to reach to more people as intended as we fight this war we are faced with. The young people are the future generation therefore we must act collaboratively to have a brighter future,” Mr Passade said.
Meanwhile, Mr Obey Mukorera, Communications Officer, Brotha 2 Brotha initiative said the drug and substance abuse menace needs a collaborative approach as it has already gone out of hand.
“The collaboration here is to send a message that drug and substance abuse is an alarming pandemic. It’s something that needs a collaborative approach to reduce the burden faced by the country. In this particular community, there is a lot of school going children and those out of school some of them which are unemployed and they can venture into drugs. We are taking part in this to make them know the dangers of drug abuse,” Mr Mukorera said.
The statistics of drug abuse have been alarming and most of the case have been reported during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic where a lot of people were confined in one places with nothing or little to do. It also rose as a result of economic strains, a lot of people failing to meet their families demands financially.
According to Nelson Makore, the senior nursing officer at Sally Mugabe Hospital the hospital attended to 150 substance abuse cases in 2019, which spiked to i50 in 2020 and the number kept on spiking in 2021.
Melody Sigura, a Telone student said, “Sporting activities help youths in finding them busy and not involving themselves in substance abuse which is mostly regarded as an idleness activity. Through this we are reminded how dangerous drugs are and we should keep ourselves away from them,” she said.