In partnership with UNODC Prevention Treatment and Rehabilitation section and the ‘Comite Interministeriel de Lutte Contre la drogue (CILD)” of Senegal, UNODC hosted a webinar training on ways to ensure a continuum of care and services to people who use drugs during the COVID19 pandemic.
Twenty three officials from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, CILD and various community based and civil society organizations in Senegal participated in a two hour long conversation during which experts from Senegal, France and Switzerland shared their experiences with maintaining treatment services accessible for drug use disorder treatment during these extraordinary times.
Dr. Lisa Blecha who works in in close collaboration with the Hepatology Centre in the evaluation and follow-up of transplant and addictology patients in France, described the challenges and successes in France. In fact, increased alcohol and tobacco use for example was strongly associated with depression and anxiety in France. Therefore, essential health treatment services such as the elaboration and communication of risk reduction strategies; and advocating for healthy behaviors that could enhance the immune system were put in place.
Dr. Claude Uehlinger, a specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy from Switzerland, a deputy chief doctor of the Friborg mental health network for over 16 years, emphasized the context of improvisation brought upon by COVID-19.
Senegal, France, and Switzerland all described the coping mechanisms and treatment protocols used in their respective countries for drug users. The countries recognized the unsuspected adaptability of drug users, the adaptability of the systems and of health professionals, the therapeutic creativity, and the strengthening of therapeutic links due to new relational approaches created by the pandemic. To cope with the number of patients, Senegal has set up an out-of-hospital care for the nonlife threatening cases. Since January 2020, the Ministry of Health has put in place a psycho-social support unit to assist the population. It is in this same community-based assistance approach, that in June 2020, UNODC delivered PPE equipments and sensitization materials benefiting 14 civil society organizations in Senegal.