This is in response to the recent article by the Archbishop of Kampala, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, in the New Vision titled ‘Partner with the church to prevent alcohol and drug abuse,’ and the recent International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking that aims to increase support for prevention of drug use that is based on science and is thus an effective investment in the well-being of children and youth, their families and their communities.

The world over is grappling with an increase in cases of drugs and substance abuse with the most hit countries being those in the West. It’s upon us all, as the Archbishop says, to take shared responsibility in tackling the vice, otherwise the next generation shall be wasted and will have no recourse to the transformation of our countries.

Uganda, like many countries, has put in place various legal frameworks to control, prohibit and monitor the use of drugs and other illicit substances, but some canning individuals and/or organised cartels still manage to trade, supply and use young people as transporters and users of drugs and substances unabated.

The Archbishop says: “We cannot afford to stand by and look on as the young generation is getting confronted by the vices of alcoholism and drug abuse, but confront the problem,” and to this end it’s upon us all to see how we can contribute to the fight against this vice by collaborating with the religious leaders.

More recent, Uganda has seen the arrest of some hard core drug traffickers who had turned Entebbe International Airport into a transit route for drugs to the Far East. But it is important to note that the culprits are from West Africa.

As we commemorate the World Drugs Day, care must be taken that the problem has become so rampant and our youth are the soft targets. Most of them think it is cool to take drugs and as parents there is need to wake up and play our cardinal role of nurturing the youth.

The UN has set 2019 as a target to achieve measures that address demand and supply reduction, and to improve access to controlled medicines while preventing diversion; areas of human rights, youth, children, women and communities; emerging challenges, including new psychoactive substances; strengthening international cooperation; and alternative development all leading to the attainment of proportionate national sentencing policies and practices for drug-related offences, and features a strong focus on prevention and treatment.

The above can only be achieved with parents being empowered to tackle the drugs abuse problem at the household level in order to avert a crisis that may befall the country and deny it productive workforce.

The government too needs to address the challenges facing most youth such as poverty, unemployment and the unmatched education circular that focuses on white/blue collar jobs than skilling upon graduation in the most high institutions of learning, especially universities that the youth view as cool to go get a degree than attend a vocational school that teaches technical skills of making bricks or fabrication.

According to the 2016 word drug report, drug trafficking amounted to more than $88 billion. The same report states that studies done in some countries, including Uganda, have found that a range of narcotic drugs, psychoactive and other substances such as opiates, khat, benzodiazepines and alcohol, contributed to wide reaching health, social and protection problems hence leading to mental health problems.

The study also found that displacement experiences, including dispossession, livelihood restriction, hopelessness and an uncertain future may make communities particularly vulnerable to drug use and its effects, and changing social norms and networks may result in changed and potentially more harmful patterns of use and resultant social costs, leading to a slow pace in achieving the SDGs and Vision 2040.

This article was co-authored with Tom Maani Bamuheire, members of the Uganda National Parental Forum