July 20, 2024

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Malawi: Drug Policy and Harm Reduction Platform Advocates for Support for Persons Who Use Drugs

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Drug Policy and Harm Reduction Platform (DPHRP) Malawi has expressed its strongest disapproval against what it describes as outdated laws, which were designed to punish persons who use drugs (PWUDs).

The platform has since asked the Government of Malawi to seriously consider repealing archaic laws that punish the PWUDs.

Chairperson of the DPHRP Malawi Undule Mwakasungula, observed that the existing laws have exacerbated stigma, discrimination, human right violations and marginalization of the PWUDs community.

Mwakasungula, in hid remarks to commemorate this year’s World Drug Day, under Support- Don’t Punish stated that the current laws undermine efforts to increase and improve access to essential health services and support systems to the PWUDs community.

“As DPHRP, we are advocating for policies that prioritize the health and human rights of PWUID, recognizing that drug use as a complex issue that requires comprehensive, evidence-based solutions rather than punitive measures. We need a fundamental move in drug policy from punitive measures to harm reduction strategies,” he said.

World Drug Day, also known as the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, is observed annually on June 26. This day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1987 to raise awareness of the major problem that illicit drugs represent to society. The day aims to strengthen global action and cooperation towards achieving the goal of a world free of drug abuse.

In Malawi, however, the commemoration of the day was delayed because the country was observing a 21-day mourning period in honour of the departed Vice President Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima who died in a plane crash together with eight others.

The 2024 theme is: “Expanding our Ecosystems of Change”. Mwakasungula said the theme is a call to action for a more inclusive, engagement, awareness, advocacy, partnership/and collaborative approach to drug policy and harm reduction.

He said the theme encourages nations to look beyond traditional methods and to build a comprehensive ecosystem that supports individuals and communities in meaningful and sustainable ways.

“World Drug Day plays a very important role in mobilizing support and inspiring action against drug abuse. It brings together governments, international organizations, civil society, and individuals to confront the challenges posed by illicit drugs. By promoting dialogue and cooperation, the day helps to promote a healthier and safer world for all, free from the harms associated with drug abuse and trafficking,” said the advocate.

Mwakasungula emphasized the need for policymakers to heed the growing global and local calls for drug policy reform by adopting legislative changes that move away from outdated and harmful practices of punishment towards policies that are informed by evidence and focused on harm reduction.

“We call for a move in focus from punishment to support. The war on drugs and the current punitive drug policies have led to widespread human rights violations against PWUIDs. Punishing drugs users has increased stigma, discrimination, human right violations and marginalization, undermining access to essential health services and support systems. This approach should give a priority to treatment, rehabilitation, and harm reduction services, ensuring that individuals receive the care and support they need rather than facing arrests and punitive measures.

“Support! Don’t Punish Campaign is facilitated and supported by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC).

By Nyasa Times.

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