Zimbabwe has held a belated International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking commemorations amid calls for a paradigm shift to consider drug abuse as a health issue instead of a criminal offence.

In line with the, “Support: Don’t Punish” global advocacy campaign to raise awareness on the harm being caused by current drug policies, guest of honour at the commemorations held in Mutare, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa said drug abuse is now a rampant problem in Zimbabwe and the world over that requires new policy positions.

She said the country’s drug policy criminalises drug users adding that Zimbabwe needs a policy that treats and rehabilitates drug dependent people rather than incarcerating them.

Senator Mutsvangwa called for more effort to cut the supply chain of illicit drugs in the fight against their abuse.  

“The heightened risks faced by illicit drug and substance abuse dependent people can no longer be ignored. As a nation we need to put our minds together to overcome this challenge that also requires policy shift,” she said.

Manicaland Provincial Health Promotion Officer Sophia Nezandonyi and Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network Director Wilson Box all underscored the need for reforming the country’s drug policy in favour of an approach that decriminalises drug abuse.

“We reiterate our call for comprehensive evidence based drug policies in Zimbabwe for people who use drugs. We continue to advocate that drug abuse is more of a health issue than a criminal case,” she said.

This year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was running under the theme; “Listen first-Listening to the children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe”.