The Middle East and North African Harm Reduction Network (MENAHRA) will be hosting the first regional conference for harm reduction on the 16th, 17th, 18th of November 2009 in Beirut Lebanon. The aim of the event is to discuss new strategies of harm reduction and advocate for their implementation. The event will be attended by at least 300 professionals and academics who are involved in harm reduction throughout the region.
In some parts of the Middle East progressive harm reduction policies are being implemented to address recognized problems with drug addiction and also HIV. Iran which has had high levels of opiate drug use in the past has been making advances in national harm reduction policy. Many North African and Middle Eastern countries form part of the drug smuggling routes that supply the Western and Far Eastern illicit markets with opiates. Political strife and conflict have also and an affect of increasing problematic drug use while reducing funds available for social spending.
There are still a lot of advances that need to be made, while Needle and Syringe Exchange Programs (NSP’s) operate in seven countries in the region. Only three countries have available Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST). However many countries in the region implement no harm reduction policies at all. There is also a lack of information, especially on stigmatised issues such as HIV prevalence as some governments are reluctant to commission research or publish findings.
The MENAHRA conference is a great opportunity to start networking advocates of harm reduction policies throughout the region as well as encouraging civil society organizations to initiate or expand existing harm reduction policies.
For more information on the event click here