CAIRO: Egypt poses a particular challenge on the fight against drug smuggling due to its “strategic location, Mohamed Abdul Aziz, regional representative in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said.
At the United Nations Information Center last Thursday, Abdul Aziz announced the launch of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) Annual Report.
Drugs, namely cocaine, destined for Europe are increasingly being smuggled through Africa, the report said.
Africa also contributes to the production of drugs, with over 42 million cannabis abusers in the region. The report ranks Egypt among the largest countries producing the substance. In 2006, 1,217 tons of cannabis herb were seized in Africa, 101 of which from Egypt.
According to the report, while illicit cultivation of opium poppy continues on the Sinai peninsula in Egypt, in 2007, there was a “considerable increase in the eradication of illicitly cultivated opium poppy.
The opium was allegedly abused by locals and used for making heroin.
Moreover, Egypt constitutes the largest market for opiates in Africa, the report said.
Abdul Aziz pointed out some of the challenges mentioned in the report, that need to be addressed by the international community overall, among which was the unavailability of appropriate health services such as rehabilitation centers and medication.
He also pointed out that some countries “do not invest in its health sector as well as the fight against drugs, by not taking preventive measures and not offering enough resources for treatment.
Globalization is also a major challenge, according to the report, with “rogue internet pharmacies promoting drug abuse among vulnerable groups, in particular youth, the report said.
While the report called on the international community to help African countries strengthen their drug control system, Gamal Farouk, director of international relations for Egypt’s Anti-Narcotics General Administration, urged the European Union to “take an objective look on African countries and consider their conditions.
“Since 1995, there hasn’t been any assistance for the developing countries . the donor countries have to take a look at us, he said.
During the press conference, Farouk was vague in his responses to questions regarding the budget allocated to fighting drugs, specific numbers and statistics or drug abusers in Egypt as well as inquiries about which country poses a particular threat to Egypt when it comes to smuggling.
This prompted Abdul Aziz to interfere and explain that such matters such as the budget is a “security issue, and thus cannot be discussed.
The report nonetheless lauded efforts by the United Arab Emirates police and the Right Start Foundation in launching a massive awareness campaign (more commonly known as Amr Khaled’s Stop Drugs campaign) in Egypt as well as other north African and west Asian countries.
The campaign, the report said, prompted 7,390 drug abusers to register for treatment and rehabilitation, 1,592 of whom were admitted to treatment centers.
Farouk warned that antidepressants pose the next threat because they are easier to smuggle and produce better profit.