Last week we told you some facts and statistics that our research has produced about drug use on the streets in Jinja. This week, as promised, we’ll concentrate on the second phase of the research, focused on the some of the more psychological aspects of taking mafuta, as well as the process of taking it, including starting, dealers and whether or not users want to stop.
Taking Mafuta for the First Time
Peer influence plays a big part in children and young adults on the street, beginning their drug habit. A number of participants who we interviewed said that a new friend that they had made on the street showed them how to take mafuta. This was not the only cause for people to start. One participant said:
‘I started sniffing to forget problems at home’
This suggests that as well as peer influence, for some children and young adults, psychological motives caused them to begin their drug habit.
We have also been told of some disturbing, aggressive tactics being used by dealers to get new arrivals on the street to start. A 20 year old man, new to living on the street, told us that in his first two weeks, a dealer of mafuta had threatened to beat him up if he did not start using.
Continuing the Habit
Many participants said that they take mafuta because of short term physical benefits that it brings. These include:
- Stopping you feeling hungry
- Stopping you feeling cold at night
- Making you feel stronger
- Lessening pain caused by beatings
- Giving you the energy and confidence to fight
For many though, the reasons run deeper. Taking mafuta provides users with escapism and helps them to forget their problems. One participant said he took mafuta because:
‘I don’t want to remember the death of my parents’
Participants were asked both how they felt when people saw them taking mafuta. We thought that since many users openly use mafuta on the streets, that they might be indifferent to how other people felt about their drug use. However, the majority of participants reported feeling either shame or embarrassment when people see them taking mafuta.
‘I feel ashamed’
Participants provided a total of 15 different names for dealers of mafuta in Jinja, and the general consensus was that for the majority of the time, users are able to buy it whenever they want. There have however been reports of the occasional shortage of mafuta on the street. The overall effect upon drug use is not know, however we do know that an alternative to mafuta is used, called ‘finner’, the substance used to seal soles to shoes.
‘We were sniffing finner, it acts as well as mafuta’
Stopping Using Mafuta
All of the children and young adults who used mafuta that we spoke to, said that they wanted help to stop. This research is the easy bit, the real challenge is coming up with a workable, achievable way of addressing the issue. We plan to share this information with other local organisations and to work together with them to not only help the people affected, but to also raise awareness of this problem that is currently being ignored. We will of course keep you up to date with how we are progressing on this blog.
N.B Just a quick note on participants – For part 1, 41 participants completed the questionnaire (40 boys and 1 girl aged between 11-24). For part 2, 10 participants were interviewed (all boys aged 13-20) and a group discussion, facilitated by S.A.L.V.E. staff, was conducted comprising of 8 boys.