Experts call for new approach to drug addiction
By Hassan Benmehdi for Magharebia in Casablanca – 26/01/12
The problem of drug addiction in the Maghreb is causing concern among civil society campaigners. More than 300 activists recently met in Morocco to discuss a new human rights-based approach to drug use among Maghreb youth.
The January 21st-22nd conference in the Moroccan coastal town of Asilah included participants from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. Attendees seized on the opportunity to call for a new way of dealing with the growing threat to Maghreb youth.
"Above all, we must not see young drug addicts as criminals. Quite the contrary; they are ill and they are victims. We need to support them and facilitate their recovery and reintegration into society," said Fatima Himmich, chair of the Association for the Fight Against AIDS (ALCS), which organised the conference.
Other speakers were unanimous about need for civil society campaigners to work together, to share experiences and exchange ideas, so that the problem could be viewed from a new angle based on human rights, particularly the right to health.
In a press statement, Billa Mahjoubi, co-ordinator of the Tunisian Association for the Fight Against AIDS, stressed that this was a new approach which satisfied international standards on the matter.
"We're going to do our best to introduce it into our daily activities, to warn young people about the evils of drug addiction in the Maghreb," Mahjoubi said.
Mohamed Val Boumozouna, representing Mauritania and chairman of the Environmental Action Organisation, felt it was high time to try a new approach to the subject to protect the Maghreb population and fight the spread of drug addiction.
The honorary chairman for the conference was Pierre Bergé, president of Sidaction, one of the main anti-AIDS charities in Europe. He underlined the advances made in the field, which have helped slow the spread of AIDS throughout the world thanks to a broad-based approach involving researchers, doctors and those infected with HIV. He said such an approach could also solve the problem of drugs, with help from the public authorities.
At the same event, attendees also looked at drugs use in the Maghreb from the epidemiological and legislative point of view, along with risk reduction programmes and the role of civil society.
In Morocco, the Ministry of Public Health set out a national anti-AIDS plan for the 2012-2016 period, which includes measures to help, treat and care for drug users. The programme also includes efforts to fight stigmatisation and discrimination against drug addicts.
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