Notes from a heroin den
The Swahili culture lines the East African Coast from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Lamu on the North Coast of Kenya. Heroin doesn’t discriminate and whilst other ethnic groups along the coast have become affected by the drug problem, the traditional Swahili people have taken the full brunt.
Heroin is the cheaper drug on offer. In East Africa it averages at around USD 2 per ‘hit’ of white crest (a crystalline powdered form of heroin). The ‘smokers’ who generally separate themselves from the ‘injectors’ will typically use the drug at least 3 times per day. For many, sex work is a way affording the drug whilst a growing number have taken to petty crime. Estimates of how many drug users there are vary but some pointed at Dar es Salaam are as high as 50,000 drug users.
A few International and local harm reduction programmes are working to mitigate the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C and Tuberculosis. But whilst their role is critical their reach is indeed limited.