Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – Abdul Conteh, a 16-year-old former student, pleads for medical care and a chance to reclaim his education after falling victim to the allure of kush, leading him to drop out of school. Conteh’s story sheds light on a disturbing trend in Sierra Leone, where drug abuse, especially kush, is rapidly escalating.
Recent statistics from 2020 to 2022 indicate a staggering 2000% increase in patients reporting at the psychiatric hospital in Kissy due to kush, constituting 70% of all admissions. This alarming situation prompted Freetown Terminal Sierra Leone to organize a substance abuse sensitization event at Sea Side and Moa Wharf communities on February 3, 2024, as part of its corporate social responsibility.
Conteh, speaking at the sensitization event, revealed he was left homeless after his late mother’s house was forcefully inherited by his uncle. Now living on the streets, he confesses to smoking at least three wraps of kush daily, costing him a significant portion of his meagre resources.
Regretting his choices, Conteh now yearns for medical assistance and an opportunity to resume his education. Similarly, 17-year-old Joselyn Macauley shares a similar fate, having been introduced to kush at the Prince of Wales School, Kingtom, by a friend. Macauley expresses the difficulty in quitting the addiction, and his desire to build a meaningful career.
Sia Gbenbo, another victim, turned to commercial sex work due to her kush addiction, illustrating the dangerous and far-reaching consequences of drug abuse. Gbenbo, like Conteh and Macauley, now craves medical care and an opportunity to pursue legitimate means of livelihood.
The Ministry of Social Welfare has disclosed plans to establish a rehabilitation centre in Freetown for those repentant over drug abuse. Gassimu Fofana, Head of Communications at Freetown Terminal, acknowledges the severity of the issue and highlights ongoing sensitization efforts in the Sea Side and Moa Wharf communities.
Fofana emphasizes that professionals, including counselors and therapists, are actively involved in the sensitization drive. He reveals plans for follow-ups with individuals expressing a strong desire to quit kush. The Freetown Terminal aims to sustain this crucial sensitization program, having witnessed positive transformations over the past three years.
As young lives hang in the balance, urgent action is needed to address the root causes of kush abuse and provide support for those willing to break free from its grip. SKS/6/2/2024