Since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Indonesia and officially announced by the President of the Republic of Indonesia H.E. Joko Widodo on March 2nd, 2020 and followed by the declaration from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on March 11th, 2020 that the outbreak of COVID-19 is a pandemic, new cases has been growing between approximately 250 to 350 cases daily in Indonesia.
Even though for most people with normal immune systems, COVID-19 may not bring severe impact as the world mortality case is still between 7% to 8%, but for people with drug use disorders especially those who inject drugs, commonly have compromised their immune systems and may experience more challenges.
Therefore, it is important to ensure the continuity of adequate access to healthcare and social services for them; and to continue to provide care as required, as described in the International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders (UNODC/WHO, 2020), to the best of their abilities.
The initiative was started the last week of March 2020, when a United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) National Mentor (officer) for Drug Treatment and Prevention in Indonesia collected information about mapping drug treatment centres in several Indonesian provinces to have an updated information on the drug treatment’s situation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many practitioners, especially for those who work in community-based drug treatment centres, felt confused and worried about how to provide the service during this period, as there are not any technical guidelines on providing drug treatment in a in/out-patient setting during pandemics like COVID-19. Some of them closed for any new admissions, some with an out-patient programme still operates but there was a need to expand the services into remote or online services, and some need further information about outreach activity during this situation.
Furthermore, many various national and international agencies put the same concern and agreed to have a regular virtual discussion and established a technical working group (TWG). Those various national and international agencies other than the UNODC Programme Office in Indonesia consists of the representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs; the National Narcotics Board; Drug Dependence Hospital, Ministry of Health; the Colombo Plan Drug Advisory Programme (CPDAP) in Indonesia, Indonesian Association of Addiction Counsellors also other organisations that work on drug use disorder treatment.
Moderated by the UNODC National Mentor in Indonesia, the regular virtual meetings have been held for six times (once or twice in a week) so far. The virtual meetings aim to provide regular updates and share information related to Drug Treatment Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic; and to establish a remote Technical Working Group to develop a Practical Guideline for Drug Treatment Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The COVID-19 situation doesn’t discourage the spirit and passion to contribute more to others as shown by the good collaboration and harmony amongst these national and international organisations in Indonesia!