The World Health Organisation (WHO) was founded on April 7, 1948 with the aim of directing global health within the United Nations’ system and to lead partners in global health responses. The global community today (April 7) commemorate World Health Day, which is running under the theme Our Planet, Our Health. This year’s commemorations come on the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, a polluted planet and an increasing incidence of diseases, hence the theme Our Planet, Our Health. WHO reports that there has been an increase in diseases like cancer, asthma, heart disease as well as mental health disorders in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic!
As Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network (ZCLDN), we believe the government should step up efforts to protect the planet and health of its citizens as well as prioritising the wellbeing of communities. One way of protecting the health of citizens and prioritising the wellbeing of communities is to deal with the menacing drug problem in the country through a holistic approach, including fully implementing the Zimbabwe National Drug Master Plan (ZNDMP 2021-2025). Illicit drug use is a major public health problem that impacts society on multiple levels and calls for urgent intervention. According to WHO, drug use causes more than 400 000 deaths per year and is a risk factor for multiple health conditions such as blood-borne infections, road traffic injuries and suicide.
It is against this background that the Ministry of Health and Child Care in Zimbabwe through the Department of Mental Health Services and partner organisations like ZCLDN joined hands together to craft the ZNDMP. This policy document seeks to provide a clear roadmap to addressing the cross-cutting drug use problem as well as highlighting a results-based implementation matrix to illustrate the roadmap as well as to ensure rigorous monitoring and evaluation. However, ZCLDN which was a key player in the crafting of the master plan has identified gaps in the implementation of the ZNDMP, which might jeopardise efforts to mitigate drug use in Zimbabwe.
As ZCLDN, we don’t want a situation where the ZNDMP document ends up like so many others – gathering dust in some forgotten drawer. As such; we have identified the following gaps: The current structure is heavily tipped on the Chairperson of the Interministerial Committee who happens to be the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Paul Mavima. This gives the Honourable minister a lot of work to do because his Ministry is one of the biggest in government. Implementation of the ZNDMP and other programmes might become slow and sluggish because the Ministers would have other duties to do. Therefore, we believe the implementation of the ZNDMP should be led by a National Coordinator like in the case of Covid-19 taskforce which is led by Dr Agnes Mahomva. The National Coordinator should report to the minister.
The heads of government departments, in this case Permanent Secretaries should report to the National Coordinator on issues to do with illicit drugs under their various departments. There is also need to have a National Steering Committee whose role shall be advisory to the Interministerial Committee. The National Steering Committee should have the following people and groups; Chairperson of the Committee to be elected every three years by members of the steering committee, Deputy Chairperson of the Committee, Secretary to the Committee and other members of the committee who include a medical doctor, clinical psychologist, social worker, youth representative, women representative, member of the war veterans as well as a representative from the Office of the President and Cabinet. A social scientist, a Chiefs Council representative, a Member of Parliament, two people who use drugs, three members of the Independent Technical Working Group on drugs, media representative, a Junior Parliamentarian and a ZIMCHEE representative should be included in the committee. There is need for capacity building for awareness and promotion of the Zimbabwe National Drug Master Plan as evidence shows that key stakeholders such as nurses, members of parliament and media do not know much about the ZNDMP. ZCLDN believes there is need to establish tools for measuring the impact of services provided based on the ZNDMP, which includes quality care or service which was done through research where change in treatment was noted to have been different compared to then and now, after introduction of the National Drug Master Plan. Development of indicators for various departments such as police narcotics department, universities should be implemented through the inclusion of the ZNDMP in the curriculum on legislation and the student representative committees. The indicators would be based on all pillars and research will be conducted with their assistance.
ZCLDN is committed to fulfilling its mission based on three programming areas: Drug Policy Reform, Harm Reduction and Drug Use Prevention. To date, the organisation has worked with legislators, civic society organisations and government departments in attaining its mission while supporting the attainment of government policies and national objectives. Furthermore, ZCLDN acknowledges and complements government’s efforts in ending the scourge of drug and substance use in Zimbabwe by setting up the Interministerial Committee on Drug and Substance Use.