The Devastating Effects of Drug Abuse in Kibera & The Response of NGO's
In Kibera, the average area of a house is twenty-four square feet; electricity is only available to 20% of the population; and HIV, typhoid, and cholera are far from uncommon. Given these facts and that half the population is unemployed, it is not difficult to imagine why so many residents turn to drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in Kenya as a whole, “The median age of first use of both alcohol and cigarettes was 9 years, while that of cannabis was 14 years.” The three most commonly reported reasons young people in Kibera try drugs are: boredom, a want to “feel older,” and peer pressure. Falling into the cycle of drug use at such a young age often interrupts important aspects of childhood development. In addition to the immense health risks of using these substances, continued drug use is one of the leading reasons for Kiberan youth dropping out of school. Education is crucial to end the cycle of poverty, so it is crucial for the widespread drug abuse, especially in youth, to be stopped in Kibera.
The education crisis is not the only effect that drug use has on the community of Kibera. Drug use often leads to run-ins with the police for drug possession, assault, theft, and prostitution. A probation officer assigned to the case will look into each offender and then determine the appropriate response, which is usually non-custodial sentences, to avoid exposure to hardened criminals and allow for the child to continue schooling, or community service. There are resources available: Eastern Africa Regional Youth Network, an NGO alliance supported by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), offers support groups to those struggling with alcohol or drug abuse; Peers Against Drugs Club fights peer pressure in school; and Kibera Mental Health approaches treatment from a mental health standpoint. The problem is that 60% of residents are unaware that such programs exist. If these programs continue to expand and make themselves known to the residents of Kibera, this could be a promising solution to help stop the drug abuse in Kibera, effectively eliminating another obstacle in the fight to end poverty.