In the kitchen of the drug rehabilitation center in Lamu, Kenya, Musa Mohamed is stirring a pan full of chicken and herbs. Musa is a 43-year-old drug user. He is one of 18 addicts at the center which is run by the Kenya Red Cross. He started using heroin 14 years ago after his friends recommended it to him.
“Then I kept on trying and after a couple of days I wanted to stop, and I was addicted already so I wasn’t able to stop,” he said.
A problem affecting thousands
Kenya’s National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) says there are 40,000 heroin users across the coastal area of Kenya. Many live in Lamu, a town with a large number of drug dens.
Red Cross volunteer Nurein Mohamed often visits the drug dens where she sees the desperation of many addicts.
Forty-three-year-old Yusuf Yunus understands that desperation. He wants to stop using drugs.
“Now I have two children of mine who will get in trouble,” he said. “I don’t know what to do because I am high. I am not healthy for them, and I don’t know how to get money. I cannot help my children when I am high.”
Medication, counseling needed
The rehabilitation center gives addicts medicine to lessen painful withdrawal symptoms. The center also requires that addicts attend group counseling.
Christine Mosiori is the manager of the Lamu center. She says high unemployment and easy availability of drugs are causing the drug problem.
Unemployment “makes it easy for someone to just get into the drugs…and also the availability of these drugs where they live,” she said.
The program run by the Red Cross takes three months and provides some job training. Then, reformed drug users go back to the streets.
Musa says he won’t go back using drugs.
“My first daughter is 14 years (old) now…I don’t want to hurt my daughter and my family,” he said. “So, I said enough is enough, and I don’t think I’ll go back.”
Signs of progress
Despite the large size of the drug problem, Mosiori says she is pleased by what the Red Cross center has done in just six months.
“Even those we have discharged, we have followed them up so far and they are actually doing very well back home," Mosiori said.
As the men kneel for Islamic prayers, they share the pain of trying to overcome addiction. They pray that one day soon, they will regain control over themselves and their futures.
I’m Susan Shand.
VOA’s Ruud Elmendorp reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in this Story
rehabilitation – n. to bring someone back to normal health after an illness or health problem
addict – n. a person not able to stop taking drugs
heroin – n. a powerful drug made from morphine
den – n. a secret place where people often do illegal or immoral things
symptom – n. a change in health that shows that a disease is present in the body
discharge –v. to let someone leave a hospital, prison or similar place