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Widespread drug abuse reported

Cannabis has remained the most abused illicit drug in eastern and others parts of Africa and several countries on the continent are major sources of the narcotic, a report released on Wednesday by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), said. In some African countries, it added, cultivation of cannabis for commercial purposes was reportedly on the increase because of declining prices of other agricultural products. "In eastern Africa - in particular Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda and Tanzania - cannabis constitutes a significant commercial crop," the INCB 2004 report said, adding that South Africa and Malawi were the other countries where cannabis cultivation was most common. "There is evidence to suggest that some of the many civil conflicts in Africa are partly funded by profits from cannabis trafficking," according to the report. The INCB is an independent and legal oversight entity for the implementation of the United Nations drug conventions, established in 1968 by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. According to the report, weak control measures at seaports, airports and land borders, inadequate drug control legislation and an increasing number of important airline hubs, had continued to exacerbate the growing drug-trafficking problem in eastern Africa. It said that while quantities of hard drugs smuggled into Africa were low compared with other regions, there was a clear upward trend in the trafficking of drugs. Countries in West Africa accounted for most heroin seizures, but the narcotic continued to be confiscated in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. In December, for example, Kenyan police reported confiscating about 1.1 mt of hard drugs in one coordinated operation in Nairobi and the Indian Ocean coastal town of Malindi. The seizure, police said, was the largest-ever-single cocaine haul in Africa. Several suspects were charged with trafficking the contraband. "A number of African countries are reporting growing abuse of heroin, albeit at a low level -those countries include Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania," the report said. According to the report, khat, a leafy narcotic stimulant widely chewed in some countries in the Horn of Africa, was currently under critical review by the UN World Health Organisation's Committee of Drug Dependence. Khat, also known as miraa or mairungi, is currently not under international control and continues to be cultivated in Ethiopia, Kenya, Comoros, Madagascar and Tanzania. It is abused mainly in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen, but its use is prohibited in Eritrea and Tanzania. The INCB urged governments, among other recommendations, to create central national authorities that would tackle both the supply and demand aspects of the narcotics problem. Such strategies would involve the coordination of efforts and decision making on the distribution of financial and other resources among those responsible for providing health, law enforcement, criminal justice, education and social services. In the report, the INCB said it appreciated the efforts of Africa countries to strengthen regional collaboration in narcotics control, through regular meetings of law enforcement agencies. The full report is available at: www.incb.org

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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