On November 14th and 15th, we travelled to Kenya to deliver a two-day civil society workshop on how to advocate for drug policy reform. Kenya has adopted a harm reduction approach in recent years, and is on the verge of starting needle and syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy – with government guidelines and procedures for both due to be finalised by the end of the year. With input from several donors, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, there are a number of NGOs working with people who use drugs in the country, providing outreach services, testing and counselling, information and advice. Although data is sparse, there are an estimated 50,000 people who inject drugs in Kenya (predominantly in Nairobi and the coastal region), and high-risk behaviours such as needle sharing appear to be very high. For example, a study conducted by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Kenya found that 48.4% of people who inject drugs had reportedly used somebody else's syringe during their last injection.

The training was requested by the Kenyan AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO) as part of the Community Action on Harm Reduction (CAHR) project, for which IDPC is an international technical partner. There were 17 participants from KANCO, the newly-formed Kenyan Network of People who Use Drugs (KenPUD), and several of the leading drug service providers from Nairobi and the coastal region. These service providers have already received numerous practical trainings on harm reduction interventions from international agencies such as UNODC. The added value of this IDPC workshop was that it focused specifically on drug policy advocacy, an area of work that is particularly needed by local NGOs in the current political context. The workshop covered four areas:

  1. An overview of the international, regional and national drug policy situations.
  2. Principles and examples of effective drug policies.
  3. How to advocate for harm reduction approaches.
  4. The role of civil society and the best ways to advocate for policy reform.

The feedback from the workshop was unanimously positive, and the group enjoyed a number of group exercises and activities. The training was based on a “Drug Policy Advocacy Training Toolkit” that has been developed by IDPC and the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN) – which is due to be formally launched at the International Harm Reduction Conference in Vilnius next summer. The Toolkit contains activities and content that can be adapted for different audiences and timescales, and will be made available on an open access basis for trainers to use and help build local capacity to better engage and influence policy making processes. To see pictures from the workshop, please click here.

While in Kenya, IDPC also attended a two-day coordination meeting for the national harm reduction initiatives, organised jointly by the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) and KANCO. For more information about this meeting, please visit the CAHR project website.

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