Society is beleaguered by many problems today, ranging from the ever present threat of paedophiles and child molesters. However, for the younger generation, the most potent threat that to date remains under reported in Botswana is that of children getting exposed to alcohol and narcotics at a tender age. The fact is that the streets are no longer as safe as they used to be and parents have to keep a closer eye on their young ones.
While warning messages are continuously churned out on the harmful effects of narcotics and alcohol on the human body, the rate of abuse of these substances has been rising steadily with no signs of abating. This has adversely affected various sectors in terms of productivity. Drugs and alcohol abuse has resulted in careers being ended prematurely, children dying at a young age, disease, disintegration of families and the spread of HIV-Aids.
In a bid to restore the safety of the streets, the Ministry of Health (MoH) in collaboration with BOSASnet convened a three day workshop aimed at informing and educating the local media on issues pertaining to alcohol and substance abuse. According to Chief Health Officer, P. Sebonego the workshop was a first of its kind as it was primarily aimed at getting input from participants, defining and understanding the various components of alcohol and substance abuse; as well as how money raised from the alcohol levy was used with the intention of arming members of the press with precise and accurate information which they will hopefully disseminate to the public.
Personnel from the Ministry of Health started by outlining the role of the media in behavioural change projects, citing the importance of honouring their responsibility to society to act and behave in a certain manner…seeing as they are to a certain extent role models to the members of the communities. They also went on to explain various laws and legislation like the Tobacco Legislation which is currently under review to bring on more stringent ways to ensure the safety and health of non-smokers.
It was also highlighted that promotion of alcoholic beverages and cigarettes is achieved by portraying smokers and drinkers as sexy, glamorous, successful and socially accepted individuals.
Sebonego described this concept as “selling of a lifestyle and not the product.”
The Narcotics, Flora and Fauna Investigation unit also presented on how they investigate, follow, go undercover and ultimately bust drug peddlers in the country. The NFFI operates under the Botswana Police Services (BPS) at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). However, it was revealed that the NFFI generally achieves a low arrest rate despite the rampant illicit drug trade in Botswana. This is because the unit invests more in uprooting the primary source of the illegal substances which will generally eliminate all the others involved in the trade right down to the user because they would have dried up the supply.
The general consensus among participants and presenters alike was the urgent need for rehabilitation facilities; with clear and concise procedures on how the public can get assistance. This will hopefully ultimately curb or even eliminate the use and abuse of alcohol and other harmful substances.