Support Don’t Punish Campaign: ZCLDN calls for drug policy reform

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On this Global Day of Action, Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network (ZCLDN), a peer-led initiative of people who use and inject drugs, joins the global community, in solidarity to commemorate the Support Don’t Punish Campaign. This year’s theme, “Expanding our Ecosystems of Change” resonates deeply with our mission to advocate for drug policy reform “…from criminalization to harm reduction…” upholding the human rights of people who use and inject drugs (PWUID).

The Support Don’t Punish Campaign runs analogous to the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, observed on the 26th of June each year. While the latter has historically emphasized punitive measures and the criminalization of drug use, the ZCLDN campaign challenges this narrative.

“We call for a shift in focus from punishment to support, from criminalization to consideration. The war on drugs and the current punitive drug policies have led to widespread human rights violations against PWUID. Criminalization exacerbates stigma, discrimination, and marginalization, undermining access to essential health services and support systems.

“We urge policymakers to heed the growing call for drug policy reform. It is time to move away from the outdated and harmful practices of criminalization and embrace a public health approach that recognizes drug use as a complex issue requiring comprehensive and evidence-based solutions. This approach should prioritize treatment, rehabilitation, and harm reduction services, ensuring that individuals receive the care and support they need rather than facing incarceration and punitive measures,” ZCLDN said in a state,ment.

By reforming the drug control regime, ZCLDN argues that stakeholders can address the plight of people who use and inject drugs more effectively and compassionately.

“Let us expand our ecosystems of change by fostering an environment where health, human rights, and dignity are at the forefront of our response to drug use. Together, we can build a more just and humane society that supports rather than punishes, and where the rights of all individuals are respected and protected.”

Today, President Emmerson Mnangagwa is set to launch the Zimbabwe Multi-Sectoral Drug and Substance Abuse Plan at the State House.

Addressing editors and station managers at a workshop in Chinhoyi last week, Fabian Musoro, the Mental Health Manager in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, said the Government is implementing initiatives and policy responses to drug and substance abuse and its link to HIV in Zimbabwe.

“Currently, Zimbabwe has the National Drug Master Plan that was developed in 2020. It is out of the Zimbabwe National Drug master plan that the idea of the National Committee for Substance Use came about. We are working on the four pillars of the national drug master plan which are demand, supply, treatment, and harm reduction,” Musoro said.