Political freedom may be coming to Burma, but not freedom from addiction. Drug dealers abound in lawless Burma. YABA (methamphetamines) is the new kid's candy in Burma. Wrapped in pretty coloured paper and sold for the same price as a sweet, the YABA trade inside Karen State has taken off. "The only people not using the drug are babies and old people", said a well know Karen leader. To help young people understand drugs. To educate. To present alternatives. "A free mind cannot be destroyed".
The recent ceasefire between the Burmese Army and the Karen Freedom Fighters has opened the door to safe passage of drugs from Northern Burma straight to Karen State, instead of through the Golden Triangle. Here is a no man's land. Drug mules will carry the heroin/meth/opium for a pittance. Many ethnic people of Burma are exposed to drugs they have never seen before. Villages inside Burma are anecdotally said to have addiction rates as high as 80%. For the drug lords profits are everything.
In 2016, DARE Network will build its first treatment centre in Burma. We have worked 15 years for this day. In 2015 we trained 15 addiction workers in the refugee camps to cross back to their homeland to help their own people. In addition, when repatriation of the refugees occurs our refugee staff will join our programs in Karen State. We are ahead of the curve. Prevention Education will continue in the 20 villages we have worked in and now move out to more through our local village coordinators
DARE's short and long term goal is to reduce and prevent addiction. With a 5 year plan in place, our workers are able to access areas inside Burma that are not open to large agencies. We have the full support of local leaders and hope with a new government in Burma, we will be able to move freely and safely. By 2018 we will have 3 operational DARE Centres and an expansive outreach program. Our new training manual is complete and we are ready to go.