NAIROBI - A new drug rehabilitation center on the Kenyan coast is working to help heroin addicts turn their lives around. The facility, run by the Kenya Red Cross, opened six months ago in the remote village of Lamu. The center is renewing hope for addicts, many of whom have easy access to hard drugs and often turn to a life of crime.
In the kitchen of the drug rehabilitation center of the Kenya Red Cross in Lamu, Musa Mohamed, 43, a former drug user, is stirring a pan full of chicken and herbs.
Musa is one of the 18 clients in the center. He started using heroin 14 years ago after his friends promised him it would improve his love life.
"I tried once, and after trying I found out that it was true. Then I kept on trying and after a couple of days I wanted to stop and I was addicted already so I wasn't able to stop," he said.
Thousands of users
Kenya's National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) says there are 40,000 heroin users across the Kenyan coast. Many reside in Lamu, frequenting drug dens.
Red Cross volunteer Nurein Mohamed visits the drug dens. Here, the heroin high collides with the bleak reality of life as a desperate drug addict.
Forty-three-year-old Yusuf Yunus wants to break the drug's hold.
"Now I have two children of mine who will get in trouble," he said. "I don't know what to do because I am high. I am not healthy for them and I don't know how to get money. I cannot help my children when I am high."
The rehabilitation center helps by giving clients medication to suppress withdrawal symptoms. They also take part in group counseling.
The manager of the Lamu center, Christine Mosiori, says high unemployment and easy access to drugs are fueling the drug problem.
"When you combine these things it makes it easy for someone to just get into the drugs, the idleness, and also the availability of these drugs where they live," she said.
The program of the Kenya Red Cross takes three months, after which the clients go back on the street. To prevent relapsing, the Red Cross provides vocational training. Musa says he won't go back using drugs.
"My first daughter is 14 years now. She about the adolescent age and she is studying. So I don't want to hurt my daughter and my family," he said. "So I said enough is enough and I don't think I'll go back behind. Now it's just going in front."
Pleased with progress
Despite the magnitude of the drug problem, Mosiori says she is happy with what she and her colleagues have achieved in six months.
"I feel that what we have done so far has helped our clients," Mosiori said. "Even those we have discharged, we have followed them up so far and they are actually doing very well back home. So I feel that our program has been beneficial."
As the clients kneel for Islamic prayers, they share a bond of fighting against a stressful addiction. They pray that one day soon, they will regain control over themselves and their futures.