MTN Foundation unveils ASAP to curb first-time drug usage, addiction

MTN Foundation through its Youth Empowerment Cause has unveiled Project A.S.A.P (Anti-Substance Abuse Programme), to raise awareness on menace of substance abuse and addiction in the country.

The MTN Foundation Chairman, Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi presided at the unveiling in Lagos.

According to him, the goal is to partner with friends in the government, media, professional bodies and non-governmental organisations to raise public awareness and advocate for more effective methods to address the menace of substance abuse and addiction.

“Commissioned by the World Health Organisation, the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project, led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimated that globally over 160 million people had an alcohol or drug use disorder in 2016.

“While data on the prevalence of substance abuse and the number of people with drug disorders in Nigeria is limited, available facts suggest that accessibility to and abuse of illicit drugs are on the rise.

“According to a 2016 report from the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), Nigeria is a known trafficking hub for controlled substances, with many young Nigerians in metropolitan areas getting entangled in drug-related offences.

“Every day, millions of young Nigerians are at risk of opiod addiction. They could be our nieces, our nephews, our friends our neighbors, our children.

“This is why we must ensure that the conversation does not stop, why all hands must be on deck, why we must do as much as we can, as fast as we can to educate our fellow citizens before they succumb to the temptation of taking drugs for the first time.

“This war against substance abuse and addiction is threatening and it is by strategic planning that we can win it effectively,’’ he said.

Adelusi-Adeluyi said that the reason why the name ASAP was chosen for the project was because of the urgency attached to the initiative, saying that in business, ASAP means ”As Soon As Possible”.

“We owe it to ourselves and our children, especially those aged between 10 to 25 years, the task of creating a world where they can become useful members of society.

“Education is the platform that we will use and so the need to educate the children on the need to say no to drugs when they are pushed into taking it.

“We at MTN Foundation in partnership with government, our partners and the media are committed to this national cause,‘’ he said.

The Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Ms Nonny Ugboma, said that the Project ASAP Programme was aimed at contributing to the significant reduction in the rate of first time users of addictive substances and drugs.

According to her, the focus is on the youth, the need for them to be alive to be empowered for the future and thus the need to educate them on abstaining from substance abuse.

She said that the pilot phase of the programme would be implemented over a six-month period across six locations in Nigeria, namely, Abuja, Kano, Bauchi, Imo, Rivers and Lagos States.

She listed the project scope to be direct engagement, stakeholders’ collaboration, digital empowerment and media advocacy.

“Direct engagement has to do with activities in primary, secondary schools, campuses, markets and advocacy walk.

“ASAP stakeholders will be actively involved in community engagement phases through active work on the field with support like facilitating workshops, access to infrastructure and resources for impact and others,’’ Ugboma said.