Mitiku* sits cross-legged in ruin of demolished houses located in the city center around Arat Kilo. He stares at pedestrians passing through the road in front of him. He is looking for his customers to come early this time. The place is known as “Eri-Bekentu” that denotes where gang violence is pervasive. As a result of the city’s program to raze inner-city slums and renovate it, the place remains open for long time after it was bulldozed.
Thus, the place becomes a safe haven for drug dealers to do business. “Usually, most of my customers came after 8:00 o’clock,” Mitiku said, “of course, people of different age came to purchase ganja, a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant.” His customers range from 16 to 52 years old. In fact, most of the users are youths especially university students and deportee from western countries.
Indeed, he is surprised by the growth in the number of female users. “Sometimes, I have more female customer than male per day,” he said. He told me that sometimes he refuses to sell to some of the customers because of their immature age. Mitiku remember his friend’s younger brother died drowns in a river thinking he could swim after taking too much drugs.
Asked how he entered into this business, he said he has inherited it from his older brother. His older brother started this business after the demolishing of their village and hence needs to earn to sustain eight members of their family. Mitiku told me that now his brother becomes rich, running a car sale company. At first he started this business working with his brother, bringing the substance from suppliers and retailing it to his customers. He said the suppliers brought the substance form Shashemene, where many Jamaicans live planting cannabis and marijuana. He said that his gross earning is more than twelve thousand birr per day these days. Had it not for his spending he would establish another big company following the footstep of his older brother.
Mitiku told me that most enter into this life to resemble their idol, perhaps reggae and raga music stars. Mitiku, whom himself drug addicted for four years, said the substance gives him unbelievable pleasure, but couldn’t think any other repercussion other than being addicted. However, Michael Tulu, mental health professional specialist at Ammanuel Rehabilitation Center, doesn’t agree so.
He proclaims that there are socio-economic and psychological impacts that victims face. For instance, they are susceptible to contract mental disorder to the extreme schizophrenia. Moreover, they are also susceptible to for unsafe sex and vulnerable to contract unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. Further, it will result in losing motivation and led to financial crises.
Berhanu agrees as well. Berhanu, 21, who is working in an electronic shop as a technician has been an addict for one and half years before he got cured. He said, “Of course smoking ganja has a very pleasant feeling. However, it has a negative consequence as well. It severely hampered my health. I caught coughing and significantly lose weight within short period of time.”
He also said that he had to enter into crime such as battery, burglary and robbery in order to satisfy his lust for the drug. He blames peer pressure for his addiction. Perhaps, Berhanu needs divine blessing to be cured from his addiction. “I stayed for two months in a monastery,” he said ,“I thank God for helping me to get out of this life. It has been two years since I quit smoking ganja. But there are many who cannot.”
Certainly, Berhanu is lucky. According to Michael, studies showed that eight out of ten mentally ill people, including drug addict person, in sub-Saharan Africa don’t get the necessary medical treatment. In fact, Michael is not only concerned about the accessibility of medical treatment, but the lack of concern from the part of the society at large. He proclaims, in Addis Ababa that there are only two government institutions that has rehabilitation center on admission bases. These institutions cannot cope up with the rise of the patients from time to time.
Even there is shortage of professionals on the field. Moreover, he said he is even more concerned that Ammanuel hospital’s teaching center, which has trained professionals on master’s level for the last six batch is about to be closed because of lack of support from the part of the government.
He recommends that the government should not only strive to upgrade the number of the professionals and institutions, but also work on school to raise awareness. Finally, he stressed out that a lot of work should be done to combat drug addiction or even any kind of addiction because it is youth and children who are vulnerable.
*Name has been changed to protect the anonymity of source
BY TEWODROS GETACHEW