People around the world continue to face an alarming and complicated battle with drug use. The 2019 World Drug Report, which is produced annually by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, estimates that “35 million people, up from an earlier estimate of 30.5 million, suffer from drug use disorders and require treatment services”.
South Africa is not immune to this problem. According to new research by the ENACT programme at the Institute for Security Studies, the number of drug users in sub-Saharan Africa is on the rise, and is expected to increase by nearly 150% by 2050. In the face of these challenges, the need for serious interventions to help treat and rehabilitate drug users is now more urgent than ever.
Intervening at a local level
In the latter half of 2019, iconic South African sanitaryware provider, Cobra, started a community skills development and training programme at the Brooklyn Public Library in Cape Town. Some of the learners who attend the Saturday morning classes belong to a drug rehabilitation centre, and the programme is designed to help them acquire plumbing skills that they can use once they leave.
“We believe that it is important to support and uplift our youth, especially in disadvantaged communities where there aren’t always positive role models,” says Isgaan Hugo, government specialist at LIXIL Africa, which includes Cobra as part of its portfolio. “This programme is helping to empower the youth with skills that can provide them with a sustainable income and ensure their long-term success.”
Making a difference
Thaabiet Stemmet used substances for almost 18 years before he got involved in the rehabilitation centre and, later, the skills development programme. He has since left the programme and now works in the maintenance department of a clinic in Cape Town. He also helps households in his community with a variety of plumbing jobs.
“The programme made a huge difference in my life physically, mentally and spiritually,” says Stemmet.
“It gave me purpose and meaning, and taught me to be vigilant of my surroundings. My training with Cobra has given me the skills not only to save money but also to do small jobs within my community. And, most importantly, I am able to pass on what I have learnt to other youth. I believe these sorts of initiatives have the potential to make big changes in our communities.”
LIXIL Africa is proud to partner with the Department of Water and Sanitation to make this programme a reality, and is looking forward to having an ongoing impact on the lives of local community members. “If we can make a difference in one individual’s life, who then goes on to positively influence someone else in turn, we would have achieved our goal,” says Hugo. “Of course, if we can spread this network wider, so much the better. We hope to stay involved in this programme for years to come in order to continuously grow and develop healthy and resilient communities.”