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Reducing Availability Of Drugs Is A Priority

It is a great pleasure for me to be part of this event, which recognises the impressive achievements of more than 50 professionals in strengthening Botswana’s capability to address the global problem of illicit drug use.

Trafficking and use of drugs is an international problem which has caused great harm to our children, our families, and our nations.

The availability of opium, methamphetamines, and marijuana has increased worldwide.

New dangerous drugs, including fentanyl, new psychoactive substances (NPS), and other opioids are creating serious health and social problems in Africa and throughout the world. 

Even here, we watch Boots and her Botswana Police Service handlers make drug busts in this city, so we know this problem affects our friends and neighbours.

This is global problem which requires progress in two areas:

The first is to reduce the availability of drugs by disrupting drug trafficking organisations, controlling drug production, and strengthening law enforcement efforts. 

The second is implementing public health responses in prevention, treatment, and recovery support for those suffering with substance-use disorders. 

We are here today to recognise the great progress Botswana has made in this second area.

The United States has made drug demand reduction a top priority. Scientific research has changed our understanding of addiction, and how drugs affect the brain.

This has helped identify better ways to treat people suffering from substance use disorders. 

Working with experts and the Colombo Plan, we translated these best practices into training for practitioners and health care professionals. 

The U.S. government assembled a panel of curricula developers who were researchers, university faculty, and drug treatment practitioners to develop a training series to “unlock” the research into step-by-step training modules. 

The resulting series, the Universal Treatment Curriculum (UTC)—currently used in over 60 countries—has been the tool to bring these effective, scientifically based practices to the practitioner in the field, and it is making a big difference in people’s lives.

The graduation of this group of distinguished professionals today will add to Botswana’s capacity to treat substance use disorders.

Armed with the skills they have learned in the UTC training, they can now share their expertise with colleagues in the entire health care system and in cities and villages throughout the country.

Botswana now has the ability to

train and expand in this area as needed, a dramatic improvement in the country’s capability to deal with the serious threat of drug use.

I’m proud to inform you Botswana completed the full, rigorous UTC training in record time, one year.  It is a great example for other countries and reflects the strong commitment of the leaders, dedicated professionals, and policymakers involved.

Experts from Botswana have for years contributed to this program. 

Botswana has been an outstanding partner of the United States, the Colombo Plan, and the international community in reviewing and improving the UTC and other tools for treatment and prevention. 

Botswana currently has eight Master Trainers in the UTC, the Universal Prevention Curriculum (UPC), and the Recovery Coach course, who help other countries follow the path Botswana has taken to improve its health systems. 

An expert from Botswana was selected for a prestigious Colombo Plan Fellowship at Cyberjaya University in Malaysia.

This ceremony recognises these outstanding graduates and highlights the potential for expanded cooperation in the future, which might include training programmes in prevention and advanced treatment, with modules focusing on the special challenges of women, children, and rural populations.

 The U.S. government also hopes to strengthen cooperation on drug demand reduction with universities, encouraged by their strong interest which has been impressive. 

Our hope is these trainings will be integrated within the government and university systems so they can be offered to everyone responsible for implementing public health responses in prevention, treatment, and recovery support for those suffering with substance-use disorders.

The United States appreciates the mutually beneficial and productive cooperation it has with Botswana and looks for forward to continuing and building upon our already close relationship. Congratulations graduates!

*Earl Miller is the United States of America (USA) Ambassador to Botswana. He was speaking at the graduation ceremony of International Centre for Credentialing and Education of  Addiction Professionals (ICCE), and Universal Treatment Curriculum (UTC). The ceremony was held on February 16, 2018, at Cresta Lodge in Gaborone.

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