Side event: Engaging youth in drug use prevention work: NRC’s approaches and methodologies

Organized by the Government of the United Arab Emirates and the UNODC Office of the Gulf Cooperation Council Region

This event consisted exclusively on the following pesentation by the Director of the Public Health Department at the National Rehabilitation Centre in Abu Dhabi

The National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) was created in 2002 thanks to the vision of late president HH Sh. Zayed in order to rehabilitate drug addicts. With the support of the government we managed to create a state-of-the-art project.

The government is supporting us fully. In 2010 we became an independent entity financially and legally.

Tje NRC’s Strategic Plan vision is to be a leading centre of excellence in providing addiciton prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. We have created six initiatives. The first and most important of them is to contribute to decreasing the burden of addiction. The main focus is health education activities targeting different segments in the community, including capacity building and life skills training.

In 2014 Abu Dhabi hosted the Global Forum for Youth Leaders on Drug Use Proevention. The objective of this forum is to create a drug prevention programme designed by youth for youth.We also wanted to develop for participant leadership skills, exchange experiences and best practice, and build a network of youth leaders. We had the participation of young people from 47 countries, including 380 youth leaders.

If we want to prevent drug use we need to invest in youth leaders.

With that, we decided to do our own UAE-centred local youth forums. We wanted to increase knowledge among the youth on addiction, substance abuse, and drugs. Also, we wanted to keep the youth busy with beneficial activities.

Our target audience were young people from age 14-16, boys and girls, in goverment and private schools. There was a maximum number of participants to 30 students per cohort. The forum is held in the NRC campus, and the duration of 2 weeks during the summer, and 1 week during winter break.

In the August 2019 Youth forum 28 boys and 26 girls were involved. This is the number of people who came in prior years.

The typical programme of the school is from 9am to 3pm. There is only one educational lecture per day, on drug-related topics. Beyond that we focus on teaching them peer pressure, effective communication and presentation skills, internet safety and social media, group dynamics and time managament, etc.

So far we have organised 5 youth forums over 3 years. We have had very good feedback from students, and from parents. Some students have become NRC ambassedors . Overall satisfacation is 85% (strongly agree), and 14 (agree). They liked trainers, food, fun activities, location, getting to know new people. What they didn’t like is that the youth forum is too short, that no transportation was provided, that there were not outside activities.

Q&A

  • Do you think that given the multicultural nature of Abu Dhabi, and the role of peer pressure in the programme, you should be providing training to expats?

Probably 80% of the population of UAE is foreign, but many of them don’t speak Arabic. So it’s a challenge when it comes to including them in our programmes. But beyond this we are open to expats.

  • I come from Uganda. A former attendant to the Youth forum in the NRC came back to Uganda and his ideas were very helpful. We can benefit a lot from this platfrom, in Africa.

We have a meeting with our colleagues at UNODC and they said they might be interested in creating a youth global initiative. Thank you for your kind words.

  • I am the chief of the department of narcotics in the Ministry of Health in Morocco. Thank you for your presentations. Are there other centers in the UAE? Do you provide substitution treatment?

There are other centres like the NRC across the UAE. We provide some substitution therapies but we try to use it as a last resort. We don’t think it’s advisable. We don’t work with methadone.

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