Empowering Youth to Kick the Habit

Empowering Youth to Kick the HabitEmpowering Youth to Kick the Habit

An international conference on “Youth and Narcotics” organized by the Youth Organization affiliated to the Iranian Red Crescent Society, as well as the IRCS International Department will be held in Tehran from February 18-21.

The confab will be attended by young representatives from the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies of Uruguay, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Kenya and Iran, ILNA reported.

“The conference follows up on a trilateral memorandum of understanding signed in 2012 between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Italian Red Cross, and the Italian Villa Maraini Therapeutic Community aimed at harm reduction,” said IRCS Youth Organization deputy Dr. Amir Lalegani.

Around the world there are nearly 201 million people who use illicit drugs each year, and almost 200,000 of them die from drug use. Globally, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are taking action to address the issue by supporting evidence-based public health policies that reduce the health risks of drug users, and promote their social inclusion.

In order to maximize the respective experience of each national society, the Thai Red Cross Society organized a gathering of experts in Bangkok last November to expand on the experience of young representatives who attended a workshop on harm reduction held in Italy in June, as per the MoU, which discussed successes and challenges of helping vulnerable communities.

 Illness, Not Crime

“Drug users should not be considered criminals,” Dr. Massimo Barra, former president of the Italian Red Cross and founder of the Villa Maraini Community had said at the Bangkok meeting.

“The Red Cross wants to bridge the gap within society, helping those hard to reach. It is important that we treat drug use as an illness, and push people to have a better life.”

The Italian Red Cross was one of several national societies to join the gathering in Bangkok, which included a visit to a detention center and sharing experience from the Thai Red Cross HIV/AIDS research center.

Representatives from the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies of Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Uruguay, and Vietnam shared their experience during the workshop as well.

One day of the week-long workshop in Italy included a discussion with government officials, UNAIDS, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime on how to scale up programming and advocacy among policy makers for effective interventions.

“The representatives then returned home to impart what they had learned in harm reduction to their respective societies,” Lalegani noted.

“The experiences and challenges of the representatives at the workshop in Bangkok will be presented and discussed at the meeting in Tehran,” he said, stressing that the conference objective is to further expand international cooperation with competent organizations within and outside the country on prevention and control of substance abuse.

Given the significance of prevention in early years, empowering the youth by training them in workshops on preventive measures and incorporating them in the decision-making process is on the IRCS agenda.