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Alcohol and drug abuse on the rise in Mogadishu

Alcohol and drug abuse are rapidly increasing and claiming lives in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, according to humanitarian and official sources.

The increase was related to the large number of unemployed youths and freelance gunmen in the city, "who have nothing better to do", one aid worker told IRIN on Tuesday.

Echoing that view, Mogadishu police chief Abdi Hasan Awale Qeybdid told IRIN he believed that "nearly 50 percent of all the crimes committed in Mogadishu are either drug- or alcohol-related".

"Recently we have noticed an increase in the number of establishments selling alcohol," he added.

Qeybdid said two kinds of alcohol were being sold in the city - a locally concocted brew, popularly known as alaq, and imported beers and spirits.

He noted that alaq, which contained dangerous chemicals, and was mostly consumed by the poor and uneducated youths, constituted a major problem. "We have had people die from it, and people who were made blind by it," he said.

Qeybdid admitted that the police were incapable of containing the problem. "We lack the necessary training and equipment to deal with this phenomenon," he said.

The main problem in dealing with alcohol traders was their ability to move their establishments around, he added. "We close one and immediately they open somewhere else."

However, the police chief went on to say said that his force was having more success in fighting the war against drugs. Over the past three months, he said, it had arrested at least 20 people and confiscated 2,000 kg of cannabis in the city.

Areas around the Bakara market (Mogadishu's main market) and the districts of Hamar Jajab, Hodan, Hamar Weyn and Shangani in south Mogadishu, accounted for most of the alcohol- and drug-related problems, the humanitarian source told IRIN. He also singled out Jaqshid and parts of Karan in the north as areas with such problems.

Qeybdid said the police needed assistance if they were to succeed in their fight against the menace, and appealed to the international donor community to help with training, drugs and alcohol awareness education, and equipment.

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

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