UN, Gov’t To Launch Revamped Drug Treatment Program in June

The government and the UN Of­fice on Drugs and Crime plan next month to launch the first two of the community-based drug treatment programs which they hope to roll out across Cambodia in the coming years, officials said yesterday.

The project is to replace and im­prove on a $1.1 million UNODC pi­lot program that concluded in 50 com­munities in March.

If successful, UNODC hopes to in­troduce the updated program to 320 communities by 2015 as alternatives to the government-run drug centers widely reproached for offering little in the way of genuine treatment.

“This project in a way is saying to the government, ‘We’re going to set up a community-based drug treatment program for you and show that it can work,’” said Graham Shaw, a tech­nical officer on drug use for the World Health Organization in Cambodia.

News of a June start date follows a visit last week from the UNODC’s regional office in Bang­kok. After touring some of the com­munities that hosted the pilot program, the Bang­kok team met Thurs­­day with Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kimyan, head of the Na­tional Authority for Combating Drugs.

Mr Shaw said the new program would differ from its predecessor, in which community teams had no dedicated facilities, by operating out of existing health centers. The two “development sites” would likely be run out of each community’s health center and refer acute cases to the nearest hospital, he said.

Mr Shaw stressed that the programs would steer clear of the government-run drug centers, which Hu­man Rights Watch in January said were the scene of abuse, and reduced drug treatment to a useless routine of military-type drills.

Mr Shaw said funding was currently available to run the first two sites for a year and that the UN is seeking donors for the $9 million the partners will need to roll out the drug treatment programs through 2015.

“If there is sufficient funding…the project will proceed well,” said NACD secretary-general Moek Dara, who said he had met with officials at the Japanese Embassy on Friday to discuss funding.

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