The Old City Counseling Centre (OCCC), a project of the Catholic agency Caritas Jerusalem, which helps combat drug abuse in the region, marked the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking this week with a conference promoting the benefits of a drug-free lifestyle.
This event at the Jerusalem YWCA on Tuesday 3 July 2007, drew more than 400 participants including young people, social workers, educational, civic, and governmental leaders and OCCC staff and volunteers.
The discussions ranged from general comments on the rising drug problem in Palestinian society to the need to decrease drug use by spreading awareness, especially in the youth sector.
Of particular concern was the fact that drug use is now finding a foothold among younger groups of children. This is causing serious social and psychological problems to them and their families, said particpants.
For those already involved in drugs and seeking a way out, a number of those present commented on the importance of treatment, follow-up and rehabilitation.
The Old City Counseling Centre (OCCC) Outreach Officer spoke about the recovering addicts that the centre has helped and the role that the OCCC has played in assisting them before, during and after completing their rehabilitative drug treatment programme.
Representing the government perspective, a representative from the Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education mentioned the role that the ministry takes in providing education to help prevent young people from starting to use drugs and the role of education and counseling against drug use in schools.
The need for cooperation and coordination between the various non-governmental institutions as well as the government bodies to work together and fight this problem was also highlighted. A collective effort is needed to ensure the success of the programme, participants declared.
OCCC utilised the event to launch an exhibition documenting the achievements of their educational programmes.