In a line of creating awareness on our scope of work “Harm Reduction”, we always visit police station which are based in Mombasa County through sensitization meeting.
It is notable that these law enforcers services remain antagonistic towards implementation of harm reduction interventions and protection of public health, fundamental human rights towards People Who Use and Inject Drugs.
This forum with police services has hugely helped us in term of making them understand the importance of Harm Reduction Services towards people who are affected by this drug menace in our community. “They are people under drug addiction and drug addiction is a diseases like any other disease.”
When law enforcement actively support harm reduction, these services can operate effectively with little or no hindrance. However, the very nature of the illicit drug trade will mean that inevitably law enforcement and service providers will need to discuss the impact of law enforcement activities on the delivery of such services. In these situations, it is best to take a positive, ‘problem solving’ approach towards engagement with law enforcement. You may need to ‘park’ some of the experiences of drug users and try to focus on positive outcomes. This may not be easy. It is recommended therefore that any engagement with law enforcement be integrated in project management plans at early stages, before implementation starts. Any engagement should be conducted in a manner of mutual respect and understanding. If law enforcement support is not forthcoming however, law enforcement activities will continue to significantly impact on service delivery, and in some cases can even lead to its failure.
As a member of civil society advocating for harm reduction, you must be aware that there are fundamental differences between the harm reduction culture and the law enforcement culture. Understanding these cultural differences and taking a problem solving approach to issues will go a long way to ensuring that law enforcement are more supportive. In the harm reduction culture, people who have a dependency on illicit drugs are viewed as having a complex health issue.