The Kisumu Forum: October 16-18, 2023

In light of the Project “Connect the Parallels: Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Synergies for Sustainable Recovery” – a project funded by the Swedish Institute and implemented in Kenya from September 2023 until March 2024 – the Kisumu Forum was held on October 16-18 in Kisumu, Kenya. Together with our partners, Sober Life International (SLI), Students Campaigns Against Drugs (SCAD), Unheard Voices of Africa (UVA), and Renaissance Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (R-TRC), we conducted a two-day workshop series on connecting the parallels uniting treatment and prevention for effective drug management in Kenya. The multisectoral workshop series assembled the National Government (National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse – NACADA), Kisumu Directorate of Alcohol Drinks Control, UNESCO, and 20 Civil Society Organisations in the prevention, treatment, and aftercare fields.

Highlights

The coordinating team emphasized the objectives of the workshop series by discouraging partners to stop working in silos and embracing integration with diverse partners and CSOs in connecting the parallels to reach a common goal of uniting treatment and prevention dimensions of substance use disorders (SUDs). During the keynote speech, WFAD speaker, Regina discussed the continuum of care from early detection, and prevention to long-sustained recovery. She also informed the team on both the international standards for drug use prevention and the international standards for the treatment of drug use disorders. NACADA presentation highlighted the regional demographics on issues of alcohol and drugs. This included initiation of substance abuse in terms of age cohorts.

CSO Group Discussions

The participants were divided into groups depending on their core business to identify exact areas they could integrate with the fields which are not their core business. An evaluation of the pre-test conducted during the first day of the workshop series on the integration of prevention and treatment of SUDs showed positive and reasonable moves, the team however acknowledged that more united efforts need to be put in place to make positive steps which is possible through this kind of forum. CSOs discussed on three key issues: Barriers to integration; Opportunities for integration; and Ideal responses to SUDs in the continuum of recovery (Aftercare).

Findings

It was identified that Prevention programs are funded and there is an element of them working on their own without referrals to treatment, while the majority of treatment centers are private entities; with a commercialized approach and not affordable to the local community. Sharing of data was also part of the discussion as an important aspect of the prevention and treatment of SUDs. NACADA representative enlightened the team members on a reporting tool where anyone can access and report their work.  The team had a short capacity building on the basic screening tool CAGE-AID. The Trans-theoretical Model process of change was discussed and the participants identified areas of intersection as they tackled change from abuse to sobriety. Social economic transformation at the community level was also part of the conversation, and the team emphasized that community development needs sober people. Impacting success stories were shared and the lived experience shared was very moving.  Addiction was discussed to be happening in a long period; hence persons with issues of addiction need support like any other community members from the point of experimentation through active use to treatment and aftercare.

Community Engagement

The Coordinating team, together with Renaissance CSO conducted a baseline survey of substance use, prevention and treatment in a rural community. This was tailored in a meaningful Focus Group Discussion (FGD) where 14 community members both male and female assembled in a remote lake village of Kagwel, Seme Sub-County in Kisumu County. While responding to concerns on why the community thought SUDs were a problem in the lake region, the participants shared their experiences indicating that indeed it is a problem that needs collective effort to address the situation, especially among the young people. Some of the problems and experiences shared by the community members included: heavy drinking, violence, wastage of money, negative investments, sexual abuse, and unstable families among others. The participants also confirmed to the team that there has not been meaningful engagement to discuss issues of alcohol and drugs in both public spaces and health facilities. As the session drew to a close, each team member had the opportunity to emphasize on the significance of the focus group discussions. The team appreciated the participants for making time and acknowledged the need to walk together with the community and deliberate on how best to combat the rising cases of SUDs in the lake region. The team also reiterated that engagement with the community was an eye-opener for both parties to identify where gaps were compared to other regions to strengthen ties and connect the parallels in terms of prevention and treatment dimensions. The participants were urged to invest time and money from the lake wisely by joining Saccos and Chamas which will eventually help them access big loans and venture into other useful income-generating activities.  They were also tasked to be ambassadors in the community and put information into practice to bring about change.

Epilogue

In conclusion, the technical team representing SI, WFAD, SCAD and Unheard Voices of Africa appreciated all CSOs and partners for the cooperation and opportunity to work together and move on as a team. They encouraged a holistic approach, enthusiasm and combined effort in connecting the parallels uniting prevention and treatment for effective drug management. An Action Plan for further engagement and joint activities was formulated and this will be a key indicator of the success of the initiative.

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