KUNDIAWA - Drug problems and their associated risks are of pandemic proportions in Papua New Guinea and affect hundreds of thousands of people.
The criminal activities associated with illicit drugs cost human lives, affect businesses and damage our social cohesion.
International crime syndicates cause us problems much worse than HIV/AIDS or even Covid-19, but our government does not seem to recognise these problems or try to address them.
We need to identify these problems and do something to solve them.
The solution will probably need to take the form of a cooperative model that recognises the drug problem is not an isolated issue but a multifactorial problem that needs a multisector approach and solutions.
All stakeholders should come together to establish partnerships that will coordinate and strengthen our capacity to support people requiring rehabilitationit and to prevent crime associated with drug distribution.
The government must develop a comprehensive national policy and action plan on alcohol and drug rehabilitation. These are non-existent in PNG at present.
The policy has to be based on reducing both the supply of drugs and consumers.
Drug squad officers need overseas training to do more effective surveillance work and acquire a more modern communication network, drug detection facilities and mobility to enhance their ability to eradicate drugs and arrest criminal elements.
The government should also create a separate division in the police force equivalent to the mobile squad to effectively combat the drug problem.
It should also establish separate detention centres for juveniles in every province so they are not mixed with adults prisoners who present a bad influence.
We need drug clinics or detoxification units for the treatment of addicts, including specialist medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, specialist nurses and addiction counsellors. This is now a pressing demand.
Treatment for alcoholics and drug addicts is non-existent in PNG and we cannot transfer people to the over-stretched facility at Laloki psychiatric hospital for treatment.
There is also a requirement to assist and create alternative projects for drug cultivators to reduce supply. Addressing the drug problem is a development issue involving poverty and sustainable development is a large part of the answer.
The provinces need support officers to be involved in drug education and rehabilitation, as well as networking with churches.
Drug problems will not transform themselves; we need to restore the human beings who experience them.
Indeed spiritual and moral enrichment should become the aim of any problem solving model and of harm and crime reduction endeavours.
Alcohol and drug abuse has already weakened social cohesion in PNG and is now a serious threat to this developing nation.
We will not prosper as a nation or a people if we don't address these problems which are now a major threat to law and order and holistic human development.