Substance abuse by children is a growing problem in Georgia, particularly among migrant populations. The National Centre for Disease Control reports that almost half of school children aged 13 to 16 have smoked cigarettes, 85 per cent have tried alcohol, and 11 per cent have used cannabis at least once.
It is in this light that the UN Migration Agency (IOM) has launched a campaign called Life is Better in partnership with the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the US Embassy in Tbilisi and key governmental counterparts.
Life is Better targets local, internally displaced and ethnic minority youth aged 13 to 14 years old and represents the first ever interactive information campaign aimed at primary prevention of substance abuse. It is being implemented over a two-week period in seven public schools in three regions of Georgia.
“Substance abuse is one of society’s biggest problems in every country in the world and threatens the growth of every society,” said Mike McMahon, Programme Director at the US Embassy for the US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) in Georgia at the kickoff event. “Youth remain particularly vulnerable so it is upon the families and the schools and our governments to make sure that we fight the scourge of illegal narcotics.”
“The most prevalent drugs other than marijuana among Georgian students are tranquillizers and sedatives consumed without a doctor’s prescription,” said Lela Sturua, Head of Non-Communicable Diseases Department of National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) confirming that substance abuse among Georgian youth was higher than the average for European countries.
“Today, it is especially significant for me to be here and to address schoolchildren and their parents on the occasion of the International Day for Protection of Children, which encourages all of us to think that we need to care for children’s health, their well-being and development,” said Sturua.
Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials were disseminated by IOM Georgia in close cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia (MoES), NCDC and Ilia State University. The campaign provides youth with sufficient information on facts and risks associated with use of eight psychoactive substances.
“Our joint information campaign aims at raising awareness on the dangers of substance abuse. We speak in one voice with love and care and concern for the best future for Georgian children,” said Ilyana Derilova, IOM Georgia Chief of Mission.