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Running Towards a Drug-Free Future in Western Region

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

In an effort to combat the escalating issue of drug and alcohol abuse in Western Kenya, Western Regional Police Commander Kiprono Lang’at recently introduced the cross-country championship. The event, held on October 23, 2023, brought together various stakeholders, including: the National Authority for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA), the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK), Athletics Kenya (AK), and residents of Kakamega.

The championship featured a 10-kilometer and 2-kilometer race around the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology grounds, with a diverse group of participants, including street children, community members, and corporate and elite athletes.

“The main objective of the championship is to raise awareness among the residents of Kakamega about the detrimental effects of drug and substance abuse,     ” said Lang’at.

He highlighted that the Western region is grappling with a disturbingly high rate of drug and alcohol abuse. “The Western region leads in drug and alcohol abuse, and the use of drugs makes people unproductive and lazy, and they become thieves. The drugs they use contain harmful chemical compounds that can even kill them. We need to address this issue comprehensively.”

To tackle this problem, the police commander stressed that law enforcement agencies are shifting their strategies. While cracking down on illegal drinking dens and illicit liquor production remains a priority, they are also focusing on creating alternative means of livelihood for those involved. This multifaceted approach seeks to address the root causes of drug and alcohol abuse and provide individuals with better options for their future.

Lang’at further revealed that the anti-drug and substance abuse campaign would extend to other counties in Western Kenya, including Busia, Vihiga, and Bungoma. In these regions, sensitization forums will be held through similar athletic championships, underscoring the importance of community engagement in the fight against drug abuse.

During the competition, Kakamega Deputy Governor, Ayub Savula, urged the government to increase funding for institutions dedicated to combating drug abuse, such as NACADA, the police force, and county governments.

“We need resources to combat this menace effectively. The government should increase funding for organizations working tirelessly to address the drug problem.”

He also stressed the importance of reviving programs aimed at integrating street children into the community through initiatives like the National Youth Service. Failing to address this issue, he warned, could result in a growing crisis. “The issue of street children is becoming a crisis. We need to revive programs to integrate them back into the community, and the National Youth Service can play a crucial role.”

Furthermore, he called for the establishment of a dedicated department within the police service to specifically address the challenges posed by street children. “The police should have a specialized department to handle the issue of street children. This would provide focused attention to this problem.”

According to the Western region NACADA Coordinator, Sarah Koske, the region has alarming statistics related to alcohol use. According to a      recent survey, the region leads with a 23.8% alcohol consumption rate. Additionally, the region also grapples with alcohol-induced disorders and mental health challenges linked to drug and alcohol abuse. These findings underscore the immediate need to address the issue and implement effective measures to curb substance abuse.

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