By Alfred Mthandizi
Lilongwe based Non-Governmental Organization, Women’s Coalition Against Cancer-(WOCACA) executive director, Maud Mwakasungula, in conjunction with United Religious Initiative (URI) and Lilongwe Cooperation Circle (CC) has called for policy review if Malawi is to win war against drug abuse.
Mrs. Mwakasungula made spoke in Lilongwe during the “Support, Don’t Punish” campaign for Global Day of Action.” “By organising this event, the Women’s Coalition Against Cancer, (WOCACA) and United Religious Initiative (URI), Lilongwe Cooperation Circle (CC) is joining partners from all continents in proclaiming that the harms being caused by the war on drugs can no longer be ignored.” said Mrs. Mwakasungula.
Mrs. Mwakasungula said the event is part of the “Support, Don’t Punish” campaign which is a Global Day of Action held on 26th of June every year when thousands of people all over the world take part in events to commemorate the day.
The event was organised as one way of supporting the day of action, which is annually held on 26 June.
According to Mrs. Mwakasungula, the function was postponed from 26 of June because it was an Eid holiday.
“Support, Don’t Punish” is a global campaign calling for changes to existing drug laws, for the decriminalisation of low-level, non-violent drug offences, and for investments in effective and cost-effective harm reduction responses for people who use drugs. The campaign was launched in 2013, and has grown year-on-year.” said Mrs. Mwakasungula.
The Executive Director said it is time to leave behind harmful politics, ideology and prejudice and to prioritise health and human rights over incarceration and futile efforts to achieve a ‘drug-free world’.
“It is time to support, and not punish people who use drugs and other non-violent drug offenders.” said Mrs. Mwakasungula.
Mrs. Mwakasungula said, “Support, Don’t Punish,” campaign has chosen 26th of June, as this is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking- a day when governments typically celebrate their record of drug arrests and seizures.
“In the past, some governments have even commemorated this day by holding public executions or beatings of drug offenders.
Yet, by the United Nations’ own admission, the ‘war on drugs’ has failed to reduce drug use and has led to serious negative consequences – such as overdose deaths, HIV and hepatitis C infections among people who use drugs, prison over-crowding, severe human rights violations, and an exacerbation of stigma, marginalisation, violence and corruption,” said Mrs. Mwakasungula.
In Malawi, the main aim of “Support, Don’t Punish” campaign is to raise public awareness of issues around drugs and harm reduction and initiating an open conversation on drug policy reforms.
In drug policy reform and harm reduction initiatives WOCACA is also working with other NGO’s such as the Centre for Human Rights, Education Advice and Assistance, (CHREAA) and Youth Watch Society (YOWSO) who have also conducted similar events in the South and North respectively.
The Executive Director said as a nation, it time to open an honest debate and dialogue on these matters for the good of our nation.
Mrs. Mwakasungula thanked the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), and International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) for financial support to enable the three events to take place in Malawi.
In her statement, WOCACA Board Chair, Charity Salima, said the only way to achieve the campaign is to put in place new policies.
Mrs. Salima urged Malawians not to punish or stigmatise drug abusers, but rather to counsel and support them so that they become useful citizens in society.