DanChurchAid, partnered with VICE Media Company brings to the big screen an untold story of Zimbabwe’s codeine cough syrup epidemic. The Danish faith-based civil society organization supports needy countries in their struggle for a dignified and better life.
Earlier this month, the documentary was officially published on VICE’s Facebook and Youtube Channels.
The documentary probes into many young people’s affray with social idleness and unemployment and how that has entailed them to find stress-numbing drugs like BronCleer in both the affluent and impecunious suburbs.
Zimbabwe is at risk of losing its youth to codeine cough syrup. The addiction epidemic has already engulfed what the experts estimate could be over half of the country’s young people.
“The streets of Harare are full of brown cough syrup bottles, a sign of the addiction epidemic currently ravaging the economy, particularly young people,”
begins the documentary.
“The cough syrup often of the brand BronCleer contains codeine,” continues the narrator, “an opiate that can be used as a painkiller. It’s relatively harmless in small doses, but can be highly addictive. BronCleer also contains alcohol, so when you drink a lot of it, it will make you feel both drunk and high. I large quantities, it can lead to respiratory problems, dangerously low blood pressure and permanent damage to the brain, heart and liver.”
In the documentary, VICE’s Lars Jellestad spoke to current and former users as well as the NGOs pushing the government to open up rehabs. At the same time to find out why cough syrup has become the drug of choice for so many young Zimbabweans.
Among the interviewed were Kuzivakwashe Mhlanga, his mother Linda Masarira, Feiton and Hilton Nyamukapa the Program Coordinator for Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network, an organisation that helps addicts.
At the height of his addiction to BronCleer, Kuzivakwashe drank four bottles of the cough syrup a day. He even stole money from his mother to feed his habit. Eventually, the 19-year-old moved out of the family home in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare to the streets.
“I wasn’t me. I was someone else,” the boy reminisced.
His mother, Linda Masarira shares his son’s ordeal with the syrup;
“He would come home from school, sit by the dinner table and stare blankly into space. He wouldn’t answer if you spoke to him. That’s the effect BronCleer has on you.”
An unidentified current user said that unemployment is the chief reason that steers him and his fellow friends to use drugs.
“The main reason which makes us do these drugs is unemployment: you don’t have things to do, you don’t get stressed or worried about a lot of things. I’ve been sitting at home for two years now,” he said.
Demographically, Zimbabwe is a country of young people. According to the country’s 2012 census, 77 percent of Zimbabwe’s approximately 13 million inhabitants are below the age of 35. Sad to relate, the younger generations of the country are still suffering in the aftermath of Robert Mugabe’s regime. Even though the nonagenarian was outed in November 2017, the economy is still in ruins.
Social issues and mass-unemployment plagues the country. The numbers have been contested, but some believe 90 to 95 percent of Zimbabweans are in informal, temporary jobs.
Thus, if these statistics serves right, millions of people in Zimbabwe are still fighting off the addiction. Due to drugs like BronCleer which are cheap and easily attainable as it is sold on every street corner, in bars, schoolyards and on buses for as little as $3 a bottle.
The syrup represents an irresistible escape for many people in the country who struggle to see a future for themselves.
Four years ago, Zimbabwe passed a ban on BronCleer, but the cough syrup is still smuggled into the country in large quantities from neighboring South Africa.
Kelvin, a drug dealer who sells the illicit syrup says of his trade;
“In a day we sell for about $100.00 to $250.00. We make a profit of about $100.00 from just one box(a box contains 50 bottles). We have got some buyers outside (in) South Africa. We contact each other. We send the money, and they bring the drugs by bus.”
Continuous abuse of BronCleer lead to permanent organ damage and can cause death. Unfortunate for many Zimbabweans, the government is largely ignoring the issue. The official strategy on drug abuse is one that relies on incarceration and forceful medication of addicts until the physical withdrawal symptoms subside.
According to Hilton Nyamukapa, this strategy is hopelessly flawed.
“From the information we are getting from various sources, we can say that probably more than 50% of the youth in Zimbabwe are taking drugs…
In our NGO we are working to change the current drug laws. We want addicts to be able to receive proper treatment,” he says.
The Zimbabwean government has since announced plans to open new rehabilitation clinics around the country. But so far, politicians have yet to find a viable solution for the problem of millions of young people dependant on BronCleer, or else they have a generation to lose as politician Linda Masarira puts it.
“Zimbabweans pretend to be conservative and they don’t want to openly talk about these things. So, going forward, we’ve got a generation to lose if the government does not step up and Zimbabweans themselves don’t step up to try and find a solution to dealing with this drug problem that is bedevilling our nation,”
VICE is a media company that produces unusual, unique, and downright weird documentaries. They are renowned for telling stories and subjects that traditional media outlets refuse to even consider.
Their content is typically aimed for the younger generation, with the majority of their journalists, reporters, and filmmakers representing a younger generation than who you’d see on regular cable networks. The content can be graphic in nature and is often times controversial, but it is informative in a way that does not hold back.
Take a sneak peek of their work in Zimbabwe’s Codeine Cough Syrup Epidemic Documentary on Facebook.
Or Watch The Documentary On Youtube
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