Sierra Leone Battles Deadly Epidemic To Save Youth

Imagine walking down the streets of your hometown and seeing groups of young men, limbs swollen and eyes vacant, huddled together in the throes of addiction. Kush has cast a dark shadow over an entire generation.

Kush is a drug made of a deadly cocktail of addictive substances that has its hooks deep in the youth of this West African nation.

But it’s not just the numbers that tell the story of this crisis. It’s the human faces behind them. Like the mother who watches helplessly as her once-bright son wastes away, stolen by the siren call of kush. Or the young man who knows the drug is destroying him but feels powerless to escape its grip.

In the face of this epidemic, communities are fighting back the only way they know how. In the Bombay suburb of Freetown, a group of volunteers has taken over an abandoned building, transforming it into a makeshift treatment center. It’s a place where addicts can find support and a chance at recovery, even if the methods are sometimes harsh, like chaining people to prevent them from escaping.

But the desperation doesn’t end there. In a twist that’s as macabre as it is heartbreaking, some addicts have resorted to raiding cemeteries, digging up skeletons to grind the bones into a powder that’s mixed into kush. It’s a practice that’s forced local cemeteries to request police protection, just to keep the dead at peace.

President Julius Maada Bio has declared a national emergency, calling kush a “death trap” and an “existential crisis” for the country. He’s promised to fight back with a National Task Force on Drugs and Substance Abuse, focused on prevention, treatment, law enforcement, and community engagement.

As Sierra Leone battles the kush epidemic, the world watches and hopes. Hopes that this nation, which has already overcome so much, can once again rise above the ashes. That its youth can break the chains of addiction and step into the light of a brighter future.

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