Guinea-Bissau drug treatment center struggles with flood of addicts
During the past three years, the tiny West African country of Guinea-Bissau has become a key transit point for cocaine traffickers shipping drugs to Europe. That has led to a rise in the number of crack-cocaine addicts in Guinea-Bissau. Those struggling to quit drugs face an uphill struggle in a country with few medical resources.
Karamba Kebe is jittery and restless. This is his second week at Desavio Jovem, a drug rehabilitation center in Guinea-Bissau.
Kebe says he was deported from Portugal after he was caught selling drugs.
"I got into trouble because I was working in the drugs business. I got caught and they sent me back here. So I returned to Africa with nothing. My family took me in despite everything and helped me to find people here who could treat my drug problem," he said.
Kebe is one of 55 recovering drug addicts and alcoholics living at Desavio Jovem, the only drug treatment center in Guinea Bissau.
Between 2005 and 2007, 33 tons of cocaine were seized in Guinea Bissau. The United Nations estimates 27 percent of the cocaine consumed in Europe passes through West Africa.
Father Domingos Té established Desavio Jovem in 2002. He says the crack-cocaine epidemic is destroying his country's youth. "They are using drugs in the form of crack. This causes so many social problems - some use violence, some steal to get money to buy these drugs," he said. "This is a huge worry because more and more of our young people are consuming [crack] cocaine."
The center helps addicts get off drugs through a faith-based, residential rehabilitation program.
At Desavio Jovem, six staff members have been trained in counseling, but there are no psychologists, no doctors and no medicine. All that is offered is guidance, a mattress and meals.
Augostinho Té, a cousin of Father Domingos Té, is a former drug addict who now works at Desavio Jovem. Despite its meager resources, he says the center saved his life. "The people here in the center welcomed me and educated me. Now I have a family and a home. I am living a happy life. I would not have accomplished that without the center," he said.
But, with few resources and a flood of cocaine passing through Guinea Bissau, many young people face an uphill struggle to free themselves from drugs.