Drugs are defined as “any substance that alters normal neural activity or interrupts neural transmission”, according to Samuel Kule, Pharmacist and Head of Pharmacy at HEAL Africa. He spoke of this definition in light of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
“At HEAL Africa’s hospital, at least one patient a month is treated for complications due to drug abuse and overdose”, says Dr. Albin Serugendo, Specialist and Head of Internal Medicine at HEAL Africa. Speaking of recent cases in Goma, Dr. Albin explained the acute complications arising from chronic conditions. “Last year we received a 38 year-old man, a known alcoholic in his neighborhood. He was in a coma, emitting a strong odor of alcohol, and snoring loudly. He admitted him and started administering infusions. He had a fever and severe difficulties breathing. After doing chest x-rays, we diagnosed him with respiratory pneumonia. It was 5 days before he regained consciousness”, explained Dr. Albin.
The most commonly used drug in Goma is alcohol, as it is easily accessible and provides a low-cost fix. Various strong alcoholic drinks are handcrafted in Goma, produced industrially in Beni, and others imported from neighboring countries. But many other drugs are used, such as marijuana, glue, and 36 birds – a hallucinogenic plant used currently in Goma.
Additionally, due to the severe poverty compounded by the wars and insecurity in the region, many youth and children find themselves living on the streets, with no parental supervision. At the mercy of their environment, these children are unable to face the challenges of every day and seek refuge in using drugs. Their lives are a fight for survival; and many engage in theft, abuse, and unsafe sexual acts – risking pregnancies and acquiring or transmitting HIV. HEAL Africa, through it’s service chaplaincy, began working with many of these youth in hopes of encouraging their recovery through teaching them song and prayer.
“Today you can trust Jibril*. Six years ago, when he started with our program, he was always drunk and constantly stealing what he could. He understands that it is normal to be rejected by the family, but not by the Lord”, reflects Pastor Ferdinand Bizimana, a leader of HEAL Africa’s chaplaincy.
However, insinuates the pastor, these youth still have many needs and areas they need support in during their resocialization from addiction. Food, medical care, housing, and education are 4 big areas that need to be covered.
Various international reports indicate that approximately 49 million individuals throughout the world, ages 11-75, used drugs in 2010.
HEAL Africa is a Congolese Christian organization that works to improve the lives of people in the Eastern DRC. HEAL has a tertiary hospital which cares for patients with diverse needs.