Tajikistan may seem like a world away from the U.S., but the Central Asian nation is facing many of the same problems seen here – heroin use, underage drinking and youth tobacco use. That’s why since 2012, CADCA has partnered with several organizations in Tajikistan to help build coalitions to reduce youth drug and alcohol use.
CADCA first launched its coalition-building efforts in Tajikistan in 2012 in collaboration with the National Olympic Academy (NOA). Together the partners began working with community leaders to develop a community anti-drug coalition in the Shohmansur district of Dushanbe.
Soon after developing the first coalition, officials at International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Office in Dushanbe suggested the use of existing Community Policing Partnership Teams (CPPTs) as a platform to expand the community anti-drug coalition model to other parts of the country. As a result, today there are a total of 8 community coalitions in Tajikistan located throughout the country in: the Shohmansur district of Dushanbe; the Somoni district of Dushanbe; Qairoqqum and B. Gafurov in Sogd Province; Farkhor, Kumsangir and Pyanj in Khatlon Province, and Vakhdat in the District of the Republican Subordination (DRS).
“I am very happy to have a partnership with CADCA, a partnership that grows stronger each year and involves more and more stakeholders. Much focus has been placed on building community coalition capacities, according to clear CADCA guidelines, which have empowered the communities to develop and carry out comprehensive community-wide plans to reduce substance abuse,” said Ibod Sharifi, head of the NOA. “I am pleased to see the coalition model spread to the remote communities of Tajikistan, and we can already see an improvement in the preparedness of communities to solve problems at the grassroots level by working together.”
Due to its shared border with Afghanistan, Tajikistan experiences problems not only with the trafficking of heroin but also with the use of heroin among young people and adults. The heroin problem is particularly prevalent in the southern region closest to the Afghanistan border. In addition, communities are seeing problems related to alcohol, tobacco and nasvai, a smokeless tobacco product that contains other ingredients such as slaked lime and sometimes ephedra.
For many of the coalitions, the first step has been to educate youth and adults about the dangers of drug use. Since youth don’t typically receive any type of information about the harms of drug or alcohol use in school or anywhere else, community leaders found that the majority of young people simply weren’t aware of negative effects of drugs, tobacco and alcohol use so they launched education campaigns and held trainings aimed at youth. The coalitions have also engaged youth in prevention work, involving them on many activities so they learn to become powerful community leaders. Coalitions are also working hard to inform parents by holding roundtable with local parents about drug-related issues.
In addition, many of the newly-formed coalitions have made improvements to their community to reduce drug use and drug dealing activities. For example, coalitions in Shohmansur, Somoni, Kumsangir, Pyanj and Qairoqqum added lighting to places where drug users are known to congregate. The Shohmansur coalition appealed to local retailers to help improve the lighting in the neighborhood, who complied. The coalition in Qairoqqum is renovating sports fields to provide safe places where young people can play sports and do other outdoor activities. It’s seemingly simple steps like these that can make a big, visible difference in the community environment.
Most have also partnered with law enforcement to do compliance checks to make sure retailers weren’t selling alcohol or tobacco to underage youth. One of the coalitions formed, the Gafurov Coalition, has implemented a comprehensive plan to address the high rates of youth consumption of nasvai, which is cheap and readily available. In addition to educating the community about the harmful effects of nasvai use, the coalition is working with law enforcement to identify nasvai manufacturers and working with retailers to reduce the sales of nasvai to minors.
While it’s still too early to determine the impact the coalitions’ efforts have had on youth drug and alcohol use rates, the coalitions are already seeing some improvements in community safety issues and overall community engagement on drug-related issues. In fact, the mayors of the Somoni and Farkhor district municipalities have publicly recognized the positive impact of coalition activities.
“The coalitions in Tajikistan have truly grasped the concept of community-level prevention and are already having a powerful impact on local communities,” explained Dr. Eduardo Hernandez, Vice President of CADCA’s International Programs. “The work in Tajikistan is a testament to the great partners we have in that country. The U.S. Embassy and INL office in Dushanbe and the NOA have been extremely supportive and helpful in our efforts to train and build coalitions in the region.”
Mark Wood, INL Director at the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, echoed that sentiment, noting that the coalition approach has been embraced by local citizens and leaders.
“The INL Office in Dushanbe is very excited about the work that CADCA and the National Olympic Academy are doing to provide community coalitions in Tajikistan with the skills and resources to identify and address factors that contribute to drug-abuse problems,” Wood said. “We see a lot of promise in CADCA’s community-based approach.”
Looking forward, CADCA hopes to continue its collaboration with the INL Office in Dushanbe and NOA, and to establish three more coalitions: in Khorog of the Mountainous Autonomous Badakhshan Province and the Shurabad of Khatlon Province, which borders with Afghanistan and in the Tursunzade of DRS, which borders Uzbekistan.