United nations (U.N) Logo. Photo courtesy of U.N Information Center in Cairo website.
As part of the cooperation between the Ministry of Social Solidarity and the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), a UN delegation visited the headquarters of the Fund for Drug Control and Treatment of Addiction (FDCTA) to study how Egypt is treating and rehabilitating drug addicts and simulating the model in Iraq.
The UN praised FDCTA’s implementation of awareness programmes to protect youth from falling victim to drug addiction, while Iraq said it would consider the Egyptian model in treating and rehabilitating drug addicts, and implementing awareness campaigns to protect youth from abusing narcotics. In meetings, FDCTA Director Amr Osman presented the operations of the fund in treating and rehabilitating addicts, and implementing awareness programmes to protect youth, university and school students.
The FDCTA, chaired by Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine Al-Qabbaj, met with the UNODC delegation to showcase Egypt’s experience in treating and rehabilitating addicts and raising awareness in order to transfer its expertise to Iraq. Participants agreed on cooperation between the ministry, FDCTA and UNODC.
Osman also met the delegation headed by Ali Al-Bereir, head of the UNODC office in Iraq, and included Mirna Bouhabib, UNDOC’s deputy Regional Representative for the Middle East and North Africa. Discussions included the key operations and functions of FDCTA for treatment, prevention and raising awareness about drug abuse.
The visit is part of an extensive partnership and continued coordination between Al-Qabbaj and her predecessor Ghada Wali, who is now executive director of UNODC in Vienna. Both sides are keen on developing a system to treat and prevent drug abuse according to UN global standards, and drawing on Egypt’s experience in supporting regional and international UN programmes.
Al-Bereir said Wali recently met three delegations from Iraq, including that headed by Iraq’s foreign minister, to discuss developing a national strategy to combat and prevent drug abuse in Iraq. Wali suggested Iraq should look at the Egyptian model since it has succeeded in reducing the demand on drugs. In response, the UNODC delegation came to Egypt to learn about FDCTA’s work and how this could benefit Iraq. During the visit, Osman highlighted the FDCTA operations, including policies, legislation, preventative programmes and early detection of drug abuse, as well as supporting and providing treatment services, rehabilitation, and reintegration in society. He added that lessons against drug abuse have also been added to school curricula.
Drug abuse treatment based on global standards is provided at 27 specialised hospitals in 17 governorates so far, in collaboration with Hotline 16023, for free and confidential help. In 2014, there were only 12 treatment centres in seven governorates, and Osman projected that treatment centres will be available everywhere across the country by 2025.
He explained that recovering addicts are re-integrated into society through loans that help them start small projects, as part of the New Beginning Fund initiative in cooperation with Nasser Social Bank. There are also intense campaigns to screen school bus drivers for drug abuse, which has reduced drug abuse rates among them to 1.8 per cent, when it was 12 per cent in 2017. Government employees are also screened and treatment is provided free of charge in strict confidentiality for anyone who voluntarily submits to treatment.
Osman also reviewed several of FDCTA’s programmes and activities, including correcting misinformation about types of drugs, demographics of drug abusers, school programmes, and media campaigns using prominent influencers. These include “You Are Stronger Than Drugs” starring world famous Egyptian Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah, and the most recent campaign that was launched in Ramadan this year which quadrupled calls to the 16023 Hotline.
The UN delegation praised Egypt’s efforts and hoped to benefit from FDCTA’s expertise and transfer its know-how to Iraq and other countries such as Mozambique.
UN officials were also briefed on the operations of the 16023 Hotline, how it receives calls from addicts and their families and refers them to free and confidential treatment. More than 88,000 addicts received treatment services via the hotline by September 2021, whether asking for help, advice or follow-up.
Bouhabib praised FDCTA’s work in implementing the national plan for combating drugs, and the effectiveness of its programmes on a global scale. She added that Wali met Mozambique’s minister of justice and that a delegation from that country will also visit Egypt to find out how the FDCTA decreased demand on narcotics and increased preventative programmes.
Bouhabib also revealed that soon there will be a memorandum of cooperation with FDCTA for awareness programmes to protect youth from turning to drugs.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly