Drawn from the West African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (WENDU), and under the auspices of the ECOWAS Commission, the experts will brainstorm on the dangers substance abuse pose to public health, development and security, in relation to crime, poverty, violence, significant health problems and social exclusion.
A communication from the ECOWAS Commission made available to the Ghana News Agency in Accra on Tuesday said the experts’ work is expected to improve the capacity of WENDU focal points in the generation, collection, organization and dissemination of drug related data, generate epidemiology data (at the regional level) on drug treatment demand indicators while aggregating data on drug supply.
They are also to promote inter-agency collaborations and establish mechanisms for real-time information exchange systems amongst WENDU focal points while suggesting ways of improving the sustainability of the programme.
The statement said a network that is expected to be created from the meeting will contribute to identify changes in drug use patterns and emerging trends, and communicate them to the agencies and organizations that have responsibility in addressing substance abuse problems or directly benefit from acquiring information about drug use, to establish new and adequate responses that address both supply and demand.
It will also assess the regional and national responses/interventions on drug control, support Member States to regularly report on the drug situation as required by International Drug Control Conventions and assist to generate strategic information for policy decision making.
The statement said that preliminary stakeholders’ submissions indicate that there is a clear need for a coordinated, public health-oriented approach from the health and law enforcement sector to address drug use and dependence reinforcing the need to establish in countries, mechanisms that will not only assess local situation but also provide clear indication for the type of responses needed to address in a comprehensive way drug use both from supply and demand side.
Therefore, apart from developing evidence informed policies and actions for effective evaluation, countries also need to have a mechanism in place to regularly monitor the extent, patterns and trends of drug supply and drug demand.
WENDU aims at improving the information base for policy makers from the ECOWAS Member States to address the social, health and economic consequences of alcohol and drug use through the establishment of local sentinel surveillance networks in all the ECOWAS Countries.
Participants at the meeting include nominated WENDU focal points from Member States, representatives of the World Health Organization, (WHO), West African Health Organization (WAHO), ECOWAS Commission, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and its equivalent institutions in the region as well as selected civil society organizations.