Drug Addiction Rampant Among Somali Men

By Paul Gaita 07/06/15

Widespread depression brought about by war and drought has triggered an increase in addiction.

Somali Addict
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A report funded by the World Bank has found that the impact of a decade-long civil war in Somalia, as well as near-constant struggles against insurgency, drought, and piracy in that country has devastated the male population of the African country.

The report, by the Rift Valley Institute Nairobi Forum interviewed 400 men and 90 women living in Somalia and Kenya and found that the ouster of Major General Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, and the civil war that followed until 2006, left countless men unemployed in Somalia and unable to provide for their families.

The situation stands in direct opposition to traditional societal roles in Somalia, which dictate that men are responsible for all household needs. As a result, men there have experienced widespread depression, which has in turn spurred an increase in the use of khat, a naturally occurring drug found in the leaves of an evergreen shrub that produces an amphetamine-like response when chewed.

Somalis who fled their country for refuge in neighboring Kenya are also experiencing the same degree of mental disarray and addiction. Men are legally prevented from both finding employment or leaving the refugee camps and have turned to their wives to obtain aid agency rations.

Divorce rates have skyrocketed among Somalian families, as well as incidents of verbal abuse by women against men. The researchers are encouraging donors who seek to support Somalia-related causes to devote additional attention to these affected members of the country’s male population.

“There are a lot of men who have suffered enormously, and are not getting any support,” said Judy El-Bushra, one of the report’s authors.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.