Kenya’s methadone program to be replicated in 7 African countries

Mombasa governor Hassan Joho addresses drug addicts at a Rehab center PHOTO COURTESY

Mombasa,KENYA:Seven African countries have resolved to replicate drug rehabilitation programs offered at the Medically Assisted Therapy (MAT) clinic in Kisauni , Mombasa after owing to its success.

More than 20 policy makers and experts from  Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Zanzibar and Seychelles who are on a three day tour in the counties of Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale to visit Medically Assisted Therapy clinics where the drug addicts are on Methadone medication resolved to replicate the program in their countries.

Medically Assisted Therapy clinic in Kisauni dispensary is currently being managed by Mombasa County Department of health in partnership with The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Dr. David Basangwa, Medical Director from the National Refferal Mental Hospital in Butabika Uganda said that they came to here to benchmark what is being done in Kenya specifically Mombasa in the fight against drug addiction and abuse.

“Despite their big number, every one of them comes here daily for their dose of methadone drug which helps in fighting their addiction to heroine and other drugs. That is a good practice in my view and to us. We hope to start something similar in their countries stressing that they also have a large number of the population affected by drug addiction”. He said.

Dr. Basangwa said that if People Who Use Drugs (PWUDs) fail to receive adequate medical and psychosocial support from the  government and  their families, it will  not only affect them but also hinder their contribution  to national development.

He added that the treatment helped the patients become active.

“Putting the patients on methadone treatment gets them out of the dysfunctional state and as such they are able to go back and work.” He added.

He urged countries however, to put in place policies and funds to ensure continuity of such programs in case donor support ends or they pull out.

MAT Clinic doctor In Charge Mahad Hassan said besides administering patients with methadone drug, the clinic also works in partnership with drop out centers such as MEWA and Reach Out who besides registering new clients, have vocational programs that teach and help recovering addicts in finding income generating activities to support them.

Dr Hassan said that the clinic also provides general treatment of other ailments to recovering addicts and has a fully-fledged clinic, laboratory, pharmacy, counselling rooms, records office, doctors, nurses and other staff to provide treatment to recovering addicts.

Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO) Policy Manager Bernice Apondi said among challenges faced by People Who Inject Drugs (PWIDs) is increased HIV infection, arrests and imprisonment by law enforcement officers and the physical harm on their bodies.

She said KANCO received a global fund grant of Sh500 million to research and fight drug addiction in the countries including Kenya. “Healthcare access is a basic human right. We did an assessment of drug users in these eight countries and if they access services, beneficial to them and covered within the law”.

She said that most African countries do not yet have policies that allow for the implementation of harm reduction programs.