The illicit drug/substance use challenge has increased dramatically in the rural communities of Zhombe during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and women are appealing to the government to urgently intervene, and find a solution to this challenge.
There are a number of factors contributing to the rising trend of substance abuse in rural areas. For instance, small rural communities often have inadequate access to healthcare and are less likely to have health insurance. Other factors that contribute to drug abuse in the rural areas include Isolation, unemployment, poor health, lack of educational completion, poverty, and risk-taking behaviors.
Furthermore, according to health professionals, the covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated a mental health crisis in Zimbabwe driven by drug/substance abuse. Authorities and campaigners attribute it to loss of employment, prolonged school closures, and anxiety resulting from COVID-19.
Women who spoke during an engagement meeting conducted by the Community Voices Zimbabwe raised concerns over the upward trend in drug/substance use among adolescents, and youths.
“It was shocking for us to discover that during the covid-19 pandemic, our children were using pampers as drugs. Our children were cooking pampers, and sanitary wear to produce drugs during covid-19 pandemic. This has continued even up to today, and they claim that it helps the mindset. We do not know where they copied all this from, but it has become rampant in Zhombe. Furthermore, this has also led to several cases of child marriages. A lot of girls fell pregnant and dropped out of school. Most parents had challenges in paying for the extra lessons, and this led some children to engage in drugs since they had nothing to do,” said Rosemary Tshuma.
“Due to these drugs that our younger generation are now taking, they have resorted to fighting in public and killing each other. Children as young as 10-14-year-old children are now killing each other. It is disheartening to find a 10-year-old killing another child. We are no longer able to control them because they will threaten to beat us. Sometimes they respond to us through vulgar language. The issue of drugs has even affected the girl child who is now also indulging in drugs because at school they are not learning. Even the girl child has become stubborn due to these drugs,” added Estina Mataruse.
Substance abuse impacts everyone it touches, and it is creating devastating consequences, in Zhombe. Some of the problems that the community of Zhombe is facing due to increased substance abuse include increased crime, violence, and illegal activities, poor academic performance, increased unemployment, and increased risk of death from overdose, and suicide
“The issue of drugs on these children has become dangerous to us as parents because if we advise them against it they might pick up an axe, and kill us. Imagine being hit or killed by your own child. Even right now if you take a tour of Joel growth point you will witness young girls, who are around 13 years drinking alcohol, and indulging in drugs. If you ask them why they are doing it they will respond stubbornly, and say you are not my mother so do not tell me what to do. The situation has become unbearable here, we do not know where this behavior is coming from,” said MaSibanda.
“It is surprising that while at school these children are giving each other bad advice that if one takes drugs it opens up the mind so that they will be able to concentrate and understand well when studying. So this lead to some children taking more subjects with the intention of getting higher grades, in order to get a better job in the future. However, they are not aware that they are actually destroying themselves because these drugs are dangerous to their mental well-being,” said Selistina Ncube a community health worker.
Due to the country’s economic meltdown, majority of youths are idle even after completing tertiary education with the unemployment rate ballooning to above 90%. This has resulted in more youths engaging in illegal activities because they have nothing to do, prompting one National Assembly member to advise the government to address the economic situation, and create employment for the youths or lose more youths to drug/substance abuse.
Furthermore, some business people in Zhombe have realised that drug/substance generates more money, and have since started to illegally sell them to the youth. Hence according to Mai Masango there is a need for the law to take its course and arrest such business people.
“Due to the economic challenges facing the country, we are doing all we can to get income, however, some of the methods that we partake in to acquire it are actually destroying our children’s potential and future. The reason why I am saying this is because some businessmen in this area are selling drugs such as ‘mutoriro’, ‘crystal meth, ‘guka’ amongst others, and they do not care about the age group they are selling to. They just sell to everyone. If these business people can be held accountable by the law, that will be a better start in eradicating this challenge, because businessmen have become the catalyst in all this,” she said.
“We do not know what to do as parents because of these drugs. Our children’s behaviors have become unbearable, some remove their clothes and start singing without clothes. I remember one who removed his clothes and started singing saying, ‘ndakuda kumbopengawo kani’ (I want to go mad). If you want to offer advice to them their behavior is unbearable, sometimes they come closer to you as if they want to beat you, and we become afraid even to offer advice because of their state. So we are now afraid of these children. Even to give them a task, they refuse. A 13-year-old will refuse to carry a bucket of water or be sent to the shops. It has become a challenge for us as parents,” said a dejected Anna Maziwisa.
Leading Psychologist Dr. Kudakwashe Muchena was quoted in a local paper as having said that there is a need for the community, and the government to work hand in hand and fight the scourge of drug abuse.
“We need to be as productive as highly as possible as a country. As a society it is pertinent that we deal with the drug issue,” he said.