Presenting author: Teddy Wandera
Presenting author biography:
Teddy Wandera is a lawyer and drug policy reform advocate. Ted has advocated for the rights of key populations and persons who use drugs since February 2014. He is currently working as the Project Coordinator at the Caucus on Harm Reduction and Drug Policy Reforms.
Unity for Purpose: A case on the decriminalization of harm reduction in Kenya
Since it’s promulgation, section 5 (d) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, has criminalized provision of harm reduction services such as: the needle and syringe program in Kenya. This continually led to persons who use drugs dropping out of harm reduction outreach programs for fear of arrest. In the long run this increased the spread of HIV and Hepatitis amongst community members.
An opportunity presented itself in 2019 when the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Bill was tabled in Parliament. With Support from Open Society, we embarked on a project where we brought together all like minded organizations and individuals keen on drug policy reforms under an initiative known as the Caucus on Harm Reduction and Drug Policy Reforms (The Caucus); the aim of the caucus was to enable members to leverage on diversity, expertise and skills to catalyze law reforms in Kenya. Through this initiative, we jointly developed memorandums for legislators, we conducted engagement meetings with legislators from various parliamentary committees; we also developed simplified memorandums that outreach workers used to build capacities of persons who use drugs during outreach visits.
Unfortunately, the bill passed without our recommendations, which catapulted us to the next phase of our project, where we embarked in an aggressive media campaign: Wrote opinion pieces, spoke on TV and Radio stations all over the country, spreading the message “Persons who use drugs need medical intervention and not incarceration”
Our campaign successfully led to the President refusing to accent to the bill and referring it to the Ministry of Health for Recommendations.
On 24th February 2022 the President assented to the bill, the new law effectively deleted Section 5(d) of the old Act. Our initiative had successfully decriminalized provision of harm reduction services in Kenya.