The one and only rehabilitation centre for drug and alcohol abuse in Guinea Bissau is in a mangrove swamp some 30 km outside the capital. Run by an evangelical priest it has extremely basic facilities. IRIN spoke to some of the patients there including Bubacar Gano, who was the centre’s first crack cocaine addict. Here is his story.
“I am 23 years old. I started smoking ‘pedra’ [crack cocaine] when I was 14. That was in 1999 and I must have been one of the first people to smoke it in Guinea Bissau, before it was well known like it is now.
“I got to know it back then because there was a yamba [marijuana] dealer in my neighbourhood who brought some back from Spain and he used to add it to the stuff he sold me and my friends. His yamba became very popular.
“Eventually he showed us the pedra and how to transform it from cocaine. My friends and I started smoking it straight in a little pipe [without marijuana].
We liked it so much we would do anything to get the money to buy it. But then the man ran out and he couldn’t get back to Europe to bring back more, so for many years there was no way to find it here, which made us really frustrated. I just smoked a lot more yamba and soon I became the yamba dealer in my area.
|More on local drug consumption|
|Cocaine to Europe produces addicts locally|
| Hear Our Voices
“I can get you all the cocaine you need,” drug intermediary [anonymous]
| Slide show
Images of a crack cocaine rehabilitation centre
“Then in 2005 there was this famous ship which sank [in a sea inlet near Quinhámel] and packets of cocaine started washing up along the shore. Most of the locals who found the packages had no idea what it was or what to do with it. But I knew.
“So I transformed it into pedra and began to deal it and I smoked it. I could sell the rock for around 250 CFA francs [US $0.50] and can make a lot of rocks with just one gram of cocaine.
“But after a while I became kind of crazy and aggressive. My sister would bring me to the hospital in Bissau to get injections to calm me down but I would need the injections all the time and they weren’t always available and they did not really work anyway.
“I guess it didn’t help that I was still smoking the pedra.
“Then my sister found out about this rehab centre here and made me come here. I didn’t want to at first. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get hold of any pedra and it’s a difficult thing to stop.
“At first I would feel very bad and very angry. But Father Domingos kept telling me that it was about making a big sacrifice and I persevered.
“I am now cured and have been for almost two years. I stay here because I am a kind of model for the new addicts that come and because my father is dead and my mother is sick and this is now my home.
“I am trusted to go the village to buy provisions and sometimes Father Domingos has even allowed me to go to Bissau [the capital]. But I never went back to visit the friends with whom I used to take pedra. That would be too much for me.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
Help make quality journalism about crises possible
The New Humanitarian is an independent, non-profit newsroom founded in 1995. We deliver quality, reliable journalism about crises and big issues impacting the world today. Our reporting on humanitarian aid has uncovered sex scandals, scams, data breaches, corruption, and much more.
Our readers trust us to hold power in the multi-billion-dollar aid sector accountable and to amplify the voices of those impacted by crises. We’re on the ground, reporting from the front lines, to bring you the inside story.
We keep our journalism free – no paywalls – thanks to the support of donors and readers like you who believe we need more independent journalism in the world. Your contribution means we can continue delivering award-winning journalism about crises.