Archive for the ‘Children's Safety’ Category

Over 1,800 teenagers, children went missing last year

Thursday, November 16th, 2017
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Masir Kujat says a total of 1,803 children and teenagers under 18 years of age were reported missing last year. (Image is for illustration purpose only.)
By Bernama - November 15, 2017 @ 10:59pm

KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 1,803 children and teenagers under 18 years of age were reported missing last year the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Of the number, 979 of them were found while 824 others are still missing.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Masir Kujat said the number had increased as compared to 2015 figures when 1,782 went missing, 1,563 were found and 219 are still missing

In 2014, a total of 2,015 people were reported missing, 1,959 were traced and 56 still missing while in the previous year 2,054 people were reported missing with 2,026 people found and 28 still missing.

For the period 2013 – 2016 it was revealed that the main cause of teenagers running away from home was to seek freedom which involved 4,188 cases, following friends (1,330 cases), following lovers (1,025 cases), family misunderstandings (715 cases), not interested in studies (150 cases ), seeking employment (101 cases), custody disputes (64 cases) and lack of family attention (81 cases).

He was replying to a question from Dr Izani Husin (PAS-Pengkalan Chepa) who wanted to know the statistics on children and teenagers running from home from 2013 to 2016.

Masir said the problem of runaway teenagers and children could be solved if parents monitored their children’s movement and friends as well as forbade them from going out with strangers.

He said parents should also monitor their children’s digital use and interactions on social media platforms such as Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp, YouTube as they could be easily influenced, adding that to steer them away from unhealthy culture, parents should emphasise on religious and moral education.

He added that in terms of gender 1,222 female children and teenagers went missing last year as compared to 581 male children and teenagers.

From 2013 to 2016, 65 cases involved children aged six and under, seven to 12 years old (297 cases), 13 to 15 years old (3,959 cases) and 16 to 18 years (3,333 cases) in the 2013 to 2016 period.


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Drug abuse could lead to acute mental disorder, says doctor.

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Drug abuse, especially club drugs, may not only induce short term mental problems but also trigger schizophrenia among those who are predisposed to it, said consultant psychiatrist Dr Rusdi Abd Rashid.

He said cannabis and methamphetamine could trigger schizophrenia in drug users who have risk factors such as family history.

The Universiti Malaya’s Centre for Addiction Science Research director warned that an early onset of schizophrenia due to drug use would require treatment for life.

For drug-induced psychosis, the users’ behaviour could suddenly become abnormal and they suffer from hallucination or delusion and behave aggressively, which mimic schizophrenia, said Dr Rusdi.

“If drugs are taken in the long term, some psychosis may be persistent and may turn into schizophrenia. It is not known yet if the condition will become permanent,” he said.

He said drug-induced psychosis might be acute and could lead to drug users harming or killing others.

Dr Rusdi said the University Malaya Medical Centre sees 30 to 60 cases of drug-induced psychosis every month.

Patients usually recover within three days to two weeks with treatment but if a drug user returns to the habit, he or she will have continued psychosis, he said.

He added that those wanting to kick their drug addiction may require life-long counselling.

Young patients are usually school dropouts who become dependent on their parents, he said.

He said most addicts start abusing drugs between the ages of 20 and 30 but some start as young as 12.

Dr Rusdi said there was effective treatment for opiates available but no medication yet for newer drugs.

He said most major hospitals had treatment for drug addiction and those with affected family members can seek help there.
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Should parents be liable for a child’s crime?

Thursday, September 21st, 2017
In parts of the United States, under Parental Responsibility Laws, parents can be held legally responsible for crimes committed by their children.

THE fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah religious school in Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur, has raised questions. The fact that it was a case of alleged arson, motivated by revenge, and most of the perpetrators are teenagers, makes the tragedy even harder to accept.

Perhaps, it could have been prevented if appropriate measures were taken to control the alleged perpetrators. Had there been better supervision of the teens involved, this tragedy could very well have been averted, and the death of 21 children and two teachers could be avoided.

Were there early signs of mental or emotional instability or distress among the perpetrators prior to the incident that parents should have been aware of? This inevitably leads many to ask whether the parents or guardians were partially to blame? Were they too permissive? Were they not loving enough? Were they aware of their children’s whereabouts?

If there is truth in the allegation that the teens were under the influence of substances when the act was committed, were the parents or guardians aware of their children’s state, and do they have the responsibility to warn the authorities to prevent any misadventure? If making them criminally culpable is too callous a proposal for our society, can they then be made liable in a civil lawsuit?

A good place to start answering the questions is perhaps the United States, since cases such as these are more rampant there.

In the US, there is something called the Parental Responsibility Law, under which parents can be held legally responsible for crimes committed by their children. Almost every state in the US has some sort of parental responsibility law that holds parents or legal guardians responsible for property damage, personal injury, theft, shoplifting or vandalism resulting from intentional or wilful acts of their children.

In California, parents can be held liable for any “willful misconduct causing injury, death or property damage” by a minor under 18. They are also liable for damages resulting from their child’s negligence while operating an automobile with the parents’ permission, and can be made accountable for a victim’s medical expenses up to certain amount.

Illinois parental responsibility laws prescribe liability for parents whose child’s wilful or malicious act causes personal injury or damage to the property of others. In Maine, although parents are also liable for their child’s wilful or malicious damage to a person or property, but financial exposure is limited to only US$800 (RM3,351), regardless of the amount of actual loss.

Another possible avenue is for the matter to be pursued under the broad umbrella of the tort of negligence, which allows someone to be made responsible for their incautious action or omission that have made others incur pain, suffering and loss.

The courts will usually be reluctant to legally recognise this sort of cause of action as a legitimate basis for a civil suit if the perpetrator is emancipated, or is an adult living with his or her parents. This disinclination extends to situations involving mentally incompetent or emotionally unstable adult perpetrators who live under the care and supervision of their parents. The judges are usually not in favour of imposing a duty on a parent to control their adult or emancipated offspring, without either a court order or other legal process expressly making the parents the legal custodian. Absent of the aforesaid legal authority, the court will usually insist on something called “special relationship” which ties the perpetrator to the parents.


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Rights of children in Islam

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Protecting our offspring means helping them to fulfil their true potential.

EARLIER this month, the sentencing of a father who abused his biological daughter sexually and physically did not just become major news locally but also captured the attention of the international media.

We need to realise that for the child, the emotional and psychological impact of those horrendous acts would definitely be very difficult to overcome.

One cannot fully absorb the thought that such abuse has actually happened.

And whatever we might feel, it is truly not the same as what the victim felt when going through the ordeal of living in fear with someone who was supposed to protect and love her as a father should.

From the Islamic point of view, a child is bestowed upon his parents from Allah the Almighty as a trust (amanah). With this trust, comes responsibility.

The responsibility of a parent includes providing the child with a living environment in which he or she can feel safe and able to develop his or her individuality to achieve the best that life can offer.

It is stated in the Quran: “And they who say: O our Lord! Grant us wives and our offspring the joy of our eyes, and make us guides to those who guard (against evil)” (Al-Furqan, Chapter 25: Verse 74).

However, the word “irresponsible” is simply not enough to describe the acts of the father mentioned.

A parent’s monstrous abuse of a child cannot just be categorised as being irresponsible.

Somehow or other, this man has lost his sense of mercy, compassion and love that a normal man would have for his child. In short, his mental condition is indeed questionable.

When it comes to treating children, one must emulate the Prophet Muhammad.

Anas ibn Malik, the servant of the Prophet recollected: “I never saw anyone who was more compassionate towards children than Allah’s Messenger.

“His son Ibrahim was in the care of a wet nurse in the hills around Madinah. He would go there, and we would go with him, and he would enter the house, pick up His son and kiss him, then come back.”

In addition, the Prophet’s love, compassion and mercy were for all children and not just towards his own offspring.

Just as we are concerned with the individual rights of adults and constantly seek to improve the enjoyment of those rights, we must never forget the rights of children.

Children’s rights seldom receive the deserved attention in most societies. Specific focus on this must be given in policy-making and social development programmes.

Children’s rights are not just about giving them education and protection; it is ultimately about their right to have a normal childhood filled with happiness.

In the Islamic worldview, the framework of maqasid al-Shari’ah (the intentions of Syariah law) should be the best guidance for those with the power and responsibility to make decisions and formulate policies that aim to protect the welfare of children.

The higher intents of Syariah are principles, answers and the wisdom behind rulings and laws in Islam.

Muslim scholars and jurists have largely agreed that the broad objectives or these intents are to promote the overall welfare of mankind and prevent harm and evil.

The fundamental rule to be observed is that the intention behind a ruling must be directed towards the fulfilment of something good and the avoidance of something harmful.

Allah the Almighty says in the holy Quran: “[And they are] those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give zakah and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters.” (Al-Haj, Chapter 22: verse 41)

Therefore, any effort to protect the rights of children must also meet the objectives or the intentions of Syariah, which include the preservation of the five essentials of religion, life, mind, offspring and property. These essentials are so critical that without them, life may be impossible or chaotic.

Allal Al-Fassi explains: “The general higher objective of Islamic law is to populate and civilise the earth and preserve the order of peaceful coexistence therein; to ensure the earth’s ongoing well-being and usefulness through the piety of those who have been placed there as God’s vicegerents; to ensure that people conduct themselves justly, with moral probity and with integrity in thought and action, and that they reform that which needs reform on earth, tap its resources, and plan for the good of all.”

In this case, protection of the offspring is not just limited to upholding and formulating the laws and rules of the religion with regard to children; it must also include promotion of their right to benefit from what life can offer them.

By Enizahura Abdul Aziz
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Harsh lessons from fire

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017
Firemen removing a body from the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah religious school in Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur, on Thursday. PIC BY ROSDAN WAHID

A TERRIBLE fire occurred at a religious school in Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur, at 5.15am last Thursday. The blaze killed 23 people — 21 students and two teachers. Six people were rescued, with three still in critical condition and warded in Hospital Kuala Lumpur. Fire and Rescue Department officials described the fire as unusually “raging” when they arrived at the scene.

In the first 24 hours after the tragedy, attention was focused on fire and safety issues. Initially, the fire was perceived as an “accident” that could have been prevented. Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar said the school did not have a valid permit from the department although “it was in the process of applying for one”. He instructed the department to conduct checks on all religious schools in the country “to ensure that they abide by safety guidelines”.

The public who watched the news of the fire in the electronic media or read about it in the print or social media) could see the permanently-fixed window grille at the top floor of the building which had prevented its occupants from escaping. According to reports, the building had one fire exit only on the third floor (where the fire started).

However, in the second 24 hours after the tragedy, the public was made aware of the possibility that the fire was not an accident but arson.

This came about after police detained seven teenagers, aged between 11 and 18. Police believed the boys had (six of whom were found to be positive for ganja) set fire to the school “following a spat between them and the students”.

City police chief Datuk Amar Singh said the suspects had intended to burn down the building “in an act of revenge over a name-calling incident that took place a few days earlier”. He believed the suspects had taken drugs before they started the fire. Investigations revealed that the suspects had used two cooking gas cylinders and a hydrocarbon accelerant (petrol) to commit the offence. The suspects had taken the cylinders to the top floor to start the fire.

He said the case was being investigated under Sections 302 (for murder) and 435 (mischief by fire) under the Penal Code. Section 302 carries the mandatory death penalty, while Section 435 carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years and a fine.

What was not mentioned is that if these suspects are charged under Section 436 (mischief by fire to destroy a building used for education), the penalty upon conviction is higher — a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine.

Section Two of the Fire Services Act 1988 (Act 341) provides a detailed definition of the term “fire hazard” as including, inter alia:

ANY unlawful alteration to a building as may render escape from any part thereof in the event of fire “more difficult”;

ANY removal, or absence from any building of any fire-fighting equipment or fire-safety installation that is required by law to be provided in the building; and,

INADEQUATE means of escape from any part of the building to any place of safety in the event of a fire.

Under Section 8, if the Fire and Rescue Department director-general (D-G) is satisfied that a fire hazard exists in any premises, he “may serve” the owner or occupier a fire hazard abatement notice within a period stipulated in the notice. Failure to comply is an offence under Section 10, punishable with a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or prison term not exceeding three years, or both.

Section 33 of the act states that: “Where there is no fire certificate in force in respect of any designated premises, the owner of the premises shall be guilty of an offence.”

Under Section 35, if the D-G is satisfied, in regard to any premises, that the risk to persons or property in the case of fire is “so serious that, until steps have been taken to reduce them to a reasonable level, the use of the premises ought to be prohibited or restricted”, he may, by a complaint, apply to the court for a prohibitory order. Upon receipt of the complaint or application, the court shall serve the appropriate notice to the owner or occupier of the premises calling upon them to show cause why a prohibitory order should be made. If cause is not shown, the court can then issue the order. The penalty for contravening the order is a fine not exceeding RM10,000, or a prison term of not more than five years and/or both.

In the religious school fire tragedy, based on what has been said by several parties, it would appear that the school building had not been issued with a fire certificate. There are circumstances indicating that the existence of “fire hazard” in the building that would constitute a valid reason for the D-G to take steps under section 8 (issue a fire hazard abatement notice). If the notice is ignored and the fire certificate has not been issued, and the risk of fire is “serious”, he could (and should) have applied for and obtained a prohibitory order under Act 341.


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Rights of a child suspect

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

The death of 23 students and teachers of the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz in Jalan Datuk Keramat in a fire has shocked the nation.

At the time of writing, City police Chief Comm Datuk Amar Singh has informed the public in a press conference that seven people aged between 11 and 18 have been arrested in connection with the fire.

It would appear that the suspects are mostly children, and according to the police the fire was a deliberate arson attack arising out of a disagreement between the suspects and some students from the tahfiz.

Yet, even before the press conference, alleged details and photos of the suspects were already circulated on WhatsApp and social media platforms.

Regardless of our own personal feelings about the tragedy, we must remind ourselves that at this juncture the seven teenagers are still just suspects. They are not even charged for any offence yet at the time of writing.

We must remember that most of them are still children in the eyes of the law.

The Child Act 2001, amongst others, provides for the rights of a child offender and the procedure when it comes to a criminal charge against a child.

According to the Act, a child who is alleged to have committed an offence shall not be arrested, detained or tried except in accordance with the Act.

When a child is charged in Court, the child will be charged and tried in a Court for Children. If the child is jointly charged with adults, the case may be heard by a Court other than a Court for Children, but that Court is to exercise all powers relating to the child as a Court for Children.

A Court for Children consists of a Magistrate who is assisted by two advisors, one of whom must be a woman. The role of the advisors is to inform and advise the Court for Children with respect to the child.

The Court for Children has the jurisdiction to try all offences except offences punishable by death. Unless the child suspects in the tahfiz fire case are charged with murder, it is likely that they will be charged and tried in the Court for Children.

There are also additional protections for a child offender at the stage of sentencing. The Court for Children must consider a probation report of the child. Child offenders also cannot be sentenced like an adult.

The Child Act prohibits the media when reporting about criminal investigations or prosecution of a child from publishing the photograph or reporting the name, address educational institution, or include any particulars that can lead to the identification the child.

The Act also prohibits the publication – which includes sharing on social media -  photographs of any child suspect in a criminal investigation. Anyone contravening these provisions may be charged for an offence under the Act. Those who spread the photos and details of the child suspects in the tahfiz fire case may have committed an offence by doing so.

In any society, members have a responsibility to protect the weakest amongst the ranks. Children would most certainly fall within that category.

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No need finger pointing, learn from tragedy

Monday, September 18th, 2017
(File pix) Family members of 10-year-old Muhamad Aidil Aqmal Mohamad Zamzuri, one of the victims in the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz school tragedy. Pix by Salhani Ibrahim
By EMBUN MAJID - September 18, 2017 @ 4:32pm

ALOR STAR: No need to point fingers, as what is more important is lessons learnt from the tragedy.

That is the response from Zakaria Darus, 59, the grandfather of 10-year-old Muhamad Aidil Aqmal Mohamad Zamzuri, one of the victims in the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz school tragedy.

Although he is devastated upon learning that the fire was an arson attack by a group of teens, Zakaria stressed that what more important is for all quarters concerned to learn the lessons from the tragedy.

“We all already know now that the cause of the fire was arson attack, but what more important now is the important of improving safety aspect at tahfiz school.

“Another important lesson from the tragedy is that schools must comply to safety requirements set by the authorities,” he said in a phone interview.

The retired Army sergeant, who resides in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur said he was disgruntled and shocked when he first learnt that the fire was set up by a group of young children.

However, he declined to comment on suitable punishment for the perpetrators and leaving it to the authorities to decide.

“It is wiser to let the police to complete their investigation on the case and if the teenagers are found guilty for the offence, suitable punishment should be meted out on them,” he said.

Zakaria said Aidil Aqmal was one of his five grandchildren.

Aidil Aqmal was among the 21 students of the tahfiz school in Kampung Dato’ Keramat, Kuala Lumpur who perished in early Thursday fire which destroyed the hostel located on the third floor of the three-storey building.

Also killed were two hostel wardens.

Police solved the case within 48 hours of the incident after rounding up seven teenagers aged between 11 and 18 in Keramat area.

Investigation revealed that three of the teenagers were directly involved in the attack, which was triggered by misunderstanding with some of the school students.


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‘Child sexual abuse cases must be handled with care’.

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: There is still a culture of permissiveness on matters pertaining to child sexual abuse within families, Suspected Abuse and Neglect (Scan) team head Dr Zahilah Filzah Zulkifli said.

“We tend to believe that the abusers will change and their partners also feel they need to give them a chance to change, but people don’t change that easily,” she said.

Dr Zahilah said while it was possible for people to change, it has to be facilitated in a structured manner with the help of experts.

“There’s a huge process in rehabilitation, it has to be done properly. You can’t just label someone as being rehabilitated and be done with it,” Dr Zahilah, a panel member at Monsters Against Us (MAU) Child Predator Symposium, said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the latest U-Report Malaysia findings presented at the symposium showed that 11% of Malaysians said they would not report an incident of child abuse if they witnessed it while only 7% said they might.

U-Report is a mobile-based communication platform that enables young people, called U-Reporters, share their ideas and opinions on social issues in their community, through polls and social media engagement.

Officially launched by Unicef in 2012, it has over two million users in 22 countries in four continents.

Asked why they would not report the abuse, an anonymous respondent said: “Because I have no power or authority to stop it.”

Another said that it might harm the child and the informer.

“So I’ll let the authorities take the actions needed.”

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Safety first for children

Sunday, September 17th, 2017
Twenty-one young and beautiful children and two adult wardens met their untimely end in the incident. Pic by NSTP/ROSDAN WAHID

IT is just so sad and mind-numbing to have so many young lives lost in the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school fire on Sept 14.

Twenty-one young and beautiful children and two adult wardens met their untimely end in the incident. Ironically, this would not have happened had the centre been more responsible and put more concern over their safety and security.

This rebuke might sound unfair or premature. But, how else could anyone put it after considering the facts and initial reports on the incident?

For one, the centre’s building had not received a certificate of fire safety and should not have been occupied at all. Then the dormitory floor, which housed the victims, had only one entry and exit.

This exit became inaccessible to the victims when it was blocked by the raging fire. There were no other fire exit as the windows were secured with metal grilles. The dormitory, thus, became a cruel death trap from which the victims had very little chance of escaping.

Investigations into what caused the fire and how it turned into an inferno rapidly are certainly necessary. So should the reason for the inability of the victims to make their escape.

The findings may lead to the prosecution and punishment of the guilty party if there had been gross negligence or criminal intent. It should also draw important lessons on how to prevent such incidents from happening again.

The early findings and observations have caused many to act quickly. There is now need for such private learning centres to be registered with a federal or state agency so that there would be more effective oversight, particularly on the matter of safety of premises and students.

The Fire and Rescue Department has also decided to inspect tahfiz centres in the country for fire safety. Parents who have children studying in similar centres would have also begun to look at the safety standards and features in the places where their children stay and study.

Finally, owners and administrators of such centres must have begun to put on their thinking caps, making “safety first” as their primary guiding principle and to improve.

The grief felt by the victims’ families and friends is unfathomable and can never be adequately described. Time may be the best healer of their pain, but the memories of their loved ones can never go away.

They may get some consolation knowing that their loved ones died as martyrs — as said by some — although deep in their hearts, they wish the victims are still alive and have the chance to grow up, pursue their dreams and enjoy their lives as they grow old.

This must surely be the overarching desire of all parents. It can be realised, as proven
by many other developed countries.

Their success, however, stems from one fundamental attitude which they seemed to have but is deficient in our society — the ability to truly love and care for the young and the weak.

When this feeling of love and care is prevalent in a country, then the young and the weak
are assured of a safer environment.

The stories to describe our situation are abundant. Have we not often cringed or cried reading of incidents of parents abusing and beating their own children? How about the frequent cases of adults leaving their children in locked houses while they work or go out to have a good time?

And those wearing helmets on their heads with their children sitting precariously on a motorcycle with their heads covered only by a thin tudung or a small songkok?

How on earth will children avoid serious injuries if they were to crash or tumble on the road? There is no true love and caring there!

There is also this inherent attitude among many to surrender the whole responsibility for the safety and security of children to others, be it to a helper at home, day care centres or even schools, without so much as some monitoring and checking while they are away.

This is amounting to abandoning them to their own ends when it is known that they are still too young to fend and care for themselves.

By Lt Gen (R) Datuk Seri Zaini Mohd Said.

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Grooming professionals to tackle substance addiction

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017
Dorji Tshering (left) and Reema Samman find the programme an eye-opener.

THE issue of substance abuse knows no boundaries.

In the United Nations World Drug Report 2016, it was cited that over 29 million people who used drugs were estimated to suffer from drug use disorders, but only one in six of them were undergoing treatment.

While many don’t understand why or how people become addicted to drugs, there is a general belief that those who use them lack moral principles or willpower, and that they could stop their drug abuse simply by choosing to.

However, it could be more complex than that. Drug addiction is akin to a disease, and quitting takes more than good intentions or a strong will.

With this in mind, Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences (CUCMS) embarked on a project with the Commonwealth’s Colombo Plan Secretariat, just over a year ago, to develop an academic and skill-based postgraduate programme to educate and train workers, who deal with and manage substance abuse patients.

The Postgraduate Diploma in Addiction Science (PGDAS) programme was designed to meet international standards, and candidates from developing nations were provided scholarships by the Colombo Plan’s International Centre For Certification And Education Of Addiction Professionals (CPICCE).

CPICCE, established on Feb 16, 2009, as a training and credentialing arm of the drug advisory programme in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is part of a global initiative funded by The Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the United States Department of State with a special collaboration with the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counsellors (NAADAC) of USA.

CUCMS is a registered and accredited private university with a focus on healthcare programmes.

According to its spokesman, the postgraduate diploma programme aims to develop trained professionals in addiction science who are able to screen, assess, construct treatment plan, and conduct individual- and group-level interventions for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts.

This is to reduce health, social and economic problems associated with substance use disorders (SUD), he said.

An agreement was signed by CUCMS and CPICCE for the commencement of this programme with the effective date on Sept 1, 2015, for a term of three years.

Under the agreement CUCMS would receive from CPICCE the updated Universal Treatment Curriculum for Substance Use Disorders (UTC) for the programme, while CUCMS would prepare the PGDAS programme in line with CPICCE’S UTC series.

The first cohort of 13 health practitioners from 10 countries came for the one-year programme almost a year ago to acquire and apply science addiction knowledge and its fundamentals to the treatment of addiction, acquire and master practical skills required in the treatment of substance abuse, learn about interpersonal skills and social responsibilities with ability to work efficiently with all levels of society, and gain professionalism in dealing with clients and stakeholders, while observing ethics and social code of conduct.

The subjects of the course include treatment of SUD, physiology and pharmacology for addiction professionals, addiction counselling skills and psychoeducation, common co-occurring mental and medical disorder, community-based peer recovery support system, case management for addiction professional, community outreach and crisis intervention.

Two of the programme participants, Reema Samman, 30, an addiction counsellor at the Pakistan Anti-Narcotic Force and Dorji Tshering, 42, Deputy Chief Programme Officer at the Demand Reduction Division at the Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority, said they had the opportunity to exchange ideas, gain new knowledge and be trained in Malaysia’s hospital settings.

Dorji looked forward to returning home and begin the work of eradicating drug addiction in his country, as well as improving patient care.

“If you go by the number of people abusing drugs or engaging in drug trafficking in Bhutan, it is not much of a concern. But if you based it on our population, which is just about 700,000, it is a major concern. Every year the number of youth abusing drugs is rising, especially those taking designer drugs. The drug of choice is cannabis, which is easily available in the wild. The second problem is pharmaceutical drugs, which can be obtained from across the country’s border. There is also easy access to alcohol. Bhutan is the first country to ban tobacco, but we have a black market tobacco trade,” he said.

The Narcotics Department where Dorji has been attached for seven years, carries out prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programmes for drug treatment with the country’s Health Ministry. But there are no actual personnel with relevant qualification in addiction science as yet on the ground.

“I have attended short courses on drug abuse prevention and treatment before. The modules of PGDAS are more detailed. While we do have counsellors in our country, they are not trained in the manner we have studied here. There are processes involved that are lacking in my country, such as different skills and methods that are addressed in this programme. It looks at the more scientific aspect of overcoming drug addiction. I hope to address those missing elements and and bring changes in my country.”

Reema, who has been trained as a psychologist and has on-the-job training in addiction science, has been volunteering in drug addiction prevention in Islamabad for four years.

“In 2013, there were 6.45 million drug users aged between 15 and 64 in my country. The reason being we are bordering the biggest opium producer, which is Afghanistan. The harsh terrain at the borders makes it hard to control drug trafficking, and as part of the trafficking route, we are victimised,” she said.

She highlighted that heroin is a rising menace in Pakistan. And as in Bhutan, the younger population is increasingly into designer drugs.

“I have been involved in youth awareness campaigns on drugs. There is a large number of population addicted to drugs due to the instability at our borders as well as lack of employment. The addicts find a solace in cannabis and hard drugs,” she said.

For Reema, attending the PGDAS programme had increased her vision and her scope of competency.

“I hope I can implement the new things I learnt here with the existing system in Pakistan. The field is new there and at the private treatment facilities in Pakistan, there is no adherence to standards in addiction science. There are accredited professionals in treatment, but not in smaller towns. My stint here will give me the opportunity to give the same type of training to personnel in those areas.”

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