The ECOWAS Commission has launched the 2018-2019 West African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (WENDU) Regional Report of statistics and trends on illicit drug supply and use.
The 2018-2019 WENDU Report was officially launched by Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Rtd), Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigeria.
Other dignitaries that delivered statements in support of the launch of the WENDU Report included: the Director-General, Narcotics Control Commission (NCC), Ghana, Mr. Francis Kofi Torkonoo who chaired the meeting; the Director-General of the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), Mr. Kimelabalou ABA; and the Director-General of the West African Health Organization (WAHO), Prof. Stanley Okolo.
In her welcome address, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, the ECOWAS Commissioner, Social Affairs and Gender, expressed delight and appreciation to the dignitaries, experts, partners, media, and CSOs for attending the launch. She stated that prior to the WENDU Project, access to reliable and comparable data on illicit drug supply and use in West Africa was a huge challenge. The Commissioner reiterated that the collation, analysis and dissemination of the WENDU Report is aligned with the objective of the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan mandating the ECOWAS Commission and the Member States to develop and maintain a sustainable system of relevant, valid, and reliable data on drug use, illicit drug trafficking and related organized crime in West Africa.
Highlights of the 2018-2019 WENDU Report were presented by Dr. Olubusayo Akinola, Program Officer, Drug Demand Reduction, ECOWAS Commission, and they included estimates and trends on drug supply and use, as well as trafficking in substandard, spurious, falsified, and counterfeit medicinal products in West Africa. The report is based on data collected by the WENDU National Focal Points (NFPs) in each ECOWAS Member State and Mauritania. Key findings in the report indicate that about 74 persons per one million population accessed treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs) in the region in 2018 and 2019. Most of those who accessed treatment for disorders related to the abuse of pharmaceuticals were youths, the unemployed and women. Furthermore, one in five persons who accessed treatment for alcohol use disorder, and one in 6 persons who accessed treatment due to opiate use disorder is a woman. The disaggregation of data by gender underscores the need for more age and gender-specific, women-focused drug use treatment interventions to enhance support, and the provision of adjunctive services required for improved treatment outcomes amongst youths and women with SUDs in the region.
Over 100 participants attended the virtual launch, including the National WENDU Focal Points of the 15 ECOWAS Member States and Mauritania; the members of the West African Civil Society Organizations on Substance Abuse (WANCSA); representatives of the media of the ECOWAS Member States, and colleagues from the various directorates of the ECOWAS Commission. ECOWAS technical partners, namely, the African Union Commission, the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, the UNODC, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the U.S. Department of State, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the GIZ, and the Centre for Research Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA), all attended and delivered goodwill messages commending the ECOWAS Commission on the milestone achievement of the launch of the report.
The moderator of the meeting, Dr. Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe who is Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, ECOWAS Commission, expressed the Commission’s appreciation for the valuable contributions of all dignitaries, experts and technical partners whose commitment and support were instrumental in preparing the report, and their participation at the launch.