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U.S. supports at-risk communities to mitigate COVID-19 impact

The U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has launched the first-ever project on "Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 on At-Risk Communities" in the Philippines.

THROUGH the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. government, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) launched on Wednesday, November 18 the first-ever project on “Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 on At-Risk Communities” in the Philippines in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in collaboration with the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) via an online platform.

The two-year project aims to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on communities by improving service and care providers’ skills and capabilities for people affected by drug use and dependence. The project seeks to empower fifteen local communities by increasing access to community-based drug treatment and rehabilitation to create a safer environment for all. Some major project activities include:

· Training local government representatives on infection prevention and control measures among people who use drugs, including the development and dissemination of guidance, handbooks and training manuals;

· Facilitating the creation of livelihood projects for people who use drugs and their families;

· Training teachers and school guidance counselors on mental health and psychosocial support for children and adolescents; and

· Developing and disseminating substance use treatment guidelines in the context of COVID-19.

Aside from the DDB, other government stakeholders include the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH), and select local government units.

DDB Board Chair Secretary Catalino S. Cuy emphasized they will ensure the project complements the drug demand reduction component of the Philippines Anti-Illegal Drug Strategy (PADS) and those activities aligned with international standards for drug control.

INL Director Kelia Cummins emphasized the need to continue providing quality care services to people who use drugs, and people with drug use disorders and their families, despite the pandemic.

During the official launch, Olivier Lermet, Senior UNODC Philippines Policy Advisor, presented the project’s components and offered a preview of a learning module for social workers and other care providers entitled, “Caring for Your Child During COVID-19.” The module’s goal is to provide parents with practical tips on caring for their children during the pandemic. Through this program, the U.S. Embassy renews its commitment to facilitating prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and recovery for drug users.