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COVID-19 and the impact on drug use and harm reduction programming in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region: a regional consultation of stakeholders and people who use drugs.

Van Hout, MC, Haddad, P and Aaraj, E COVID-19 and the impact on drug use and harm reduction programming in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region: a regional consultation of stakeholders and people who use drugs. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. ISSN 1557-1874 (Accepted)

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Abstract

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has witnessed a slow but steady increase in the harm reduction response since 2016. It is likely that such gains are threatened by the impact of COVID-19. Very little is known about the health response and situation of people who use drugs (PWUD) during the pandemic in the region. A mixed method study was conducted by the MENA Harm Reduction Association (MENAHRA) to assess the situation of PWUD and impacts on harm reduction services during COVID-19. Twelve countries and two regional viewpoints responded to the survey. A virtual focus group was held with the MENA Network of People who Use Drugs (MENANPUD) focal points (n=11). The study highlights how COVID-19 aggravated existing marginalisation and stigmatisation of PWUD and other key populations in the MENA region, with government level resourcing severely impacted by COVID-19. It further illustrates the commitment by harm reduction non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in diversifying their response, particularly through mobile outreach to drug hot spots, and the reliance of technology to support awareness raising, telemedicine, and medicine supplies. Positive shifts are observed in harm reduction policy by governments in some MENA countries, and the continued commitment to support PWUD communities by existing harm reduction NGOs. Continued advocacy for, and implementation of harm reduction responses at the domestic and regional levels should be underpinned by inclusion in State health emergency planning and disease control efforts, awareness raising around innovation and telemedicine to support health and NGO support systems and medicine supply chains, resourcing of NGOs, and provision of economic support for PWUD, disease surveillance and research.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1117 Public Health and Health Services, 1701 Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Divisions: Public Health Institute
Publisher: Springer
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2021 10:24
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2021 10:30
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14504

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