By Deo Gumba

The East African Community is developing a new approach that combines health and policy interventions in managing drug use.

East Africa has embarked on an ambitious process to formulate a joint draft policy on harm reduction services for people who use drugs. If successful, East Africa will be the first region on the continent to formulate such a policy.

Experts drawn from member states of the regional economic bloc, the East African Community (EAC), met in Entebbe, Uganda, from 11 to 15 December 2017 to deliberate on the draft policy, ahead of further consideration and validation by the EAC technical working group on health.

Out of the region’s population of about 150 million inhabitants, some 260 000 people are reported to use drugs. Though it is home to about 20% of drug users on the continent, East Africa still lacks reliable data to inform programming and service delivery to this vulnerable group.