Substance Abuse Prevention
What do you do when you realize you’re inheriting all the best and worst traits of your parents? Anyama Akomi Jonathan was caught up in all the freedoms that going away to university brings. He attended the local schools in the rural villages of Adjumani District in Uganda all his life. So when he found out he had been admitted to Makerere University medical school, it was like a whole new world was at his fingertips.
Anyama’s father was an alcoholic, but as a boy who admired his dad, Anyama saw drinking alcohol as a sign of maturity and the norm for elderly people in his community. But in 2019, during his third year rotation in the surgical ward at Makerere, he discovered that most of the people admitted to the hospital with liver disease and pancreatic cancer had something in common-- alcohol abuse. It hit Anyama that this could be his future if he didn’t stop drinking.
Anyama didn’t always understand the effects drinking had on his body. And if he, as a medical student didn’t know, what about others who did not have the same access to information and resources that he did? He worried that all his friends back home were at serious high risk of developing fatal diseases if they didn’t get the education they needed about the perils of alcohol abuse. What makes matters worse is that young people could easily access drugs and alcohol for very cheap and without restrictions. "While at home, my parents drink. They send me to buy [the alcohol] and since the local brew seller knows me and my family, she always gives me half a bottle as a reward for being a good boy,”one of Anyama’s friends recounted.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Uganda, like other countries, went into a national lockdown. Schools were closed with unknown reopening dates, leaving students idle at home. Anyama feared this would dramatically increase the use of drugs and alcohol in his community. He decided to apply for the Peace First Rapid Response Grant for his project, Substance Abuse Prevention.
With his mini grant and guidance from his Peace First regional manager, he created and implemented a baseline survey and established a report that tried to quantify the extent of drug use and risk factors/vulnerability factors to drug use among school going persons (SGPs) in his district. His project spread quickly across the region into 44 different villages and 12 sub counties. Anyama and his team equipped 1,056 students with substance abuse knowledge and life skills that they can use when faced with a drug use situation. He even teamed up with his District Health Office to offer treatment to those with drug use disorders without discriminating or criminalizing them. Through this office they referred four SGPs within three months for institutional rehabilitation at Butabika National referral hospital.
The project continues to strive to alleviate addiction or dependence of victims through counselling, referral to therapy and rehabilitation, and is currently seeking more funding to expand into other cities and provinces within Uganda.
Read the full project report here.