In this month’s episode, we talk with Mr. Dandy Yela, the World Federation Against Drugs DRC Country Representative about their Sober Youth Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Listen here.

Stigmatisation and discrimination of persons who use substances is still an issue in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its capital city, Kinshasa. This is the case of youngsters, such as members of urban youth gangs – the kulunas. They are facing rejection and social exclusion and are being singled out, leading to urban violence and insecurity in Kinshasa neighborhoods. Unfortunately, DRC public services approach based on repression to fight this phenomenon has produced counterproductive consequences. It was more than necessary to develop a social approach focusing on prevention strategies to tackle the kuluna phenomenon while combatting drug use among this vulnerable social group.

Breaking cycles of violence should include appropriate psychosocial support strategies, including the reinforcement and restoration of family relations and social support mechanisms at community and society levels to support social inclusion and reintegration. Thus, to bring an appropriate response to the Kuluna phenomenon, WFAD has developed a three-year project that focuses particularly on mental health and psychosocial support services, including parental support groups. It offers recovery support, a socio-economic reintegration component, facilitating hope, reintegration, and sustainability of change among participants.

The Sober Youth project was officially launched in December 2020 and has already achieved tangible and visible results, such as mental and psychosocial support leading to the withdrawal from drugs and other psychoactive substances for almost 600 young people to date. Currently, the implementing partners are busy working on empowering all these young beneficiaries through jobs creation, trainings and income-generating activities.

Besides this, impacts on communities are evident with significant contributions to peace in families and social groups. The youth jobs were created fighting poverty and have made drinking water available to nearly 100,000 inhabitants in the municipalities of Makala, Selembao, and Kinshasa.