I wont claim to be a specialist on the subject of child drug addicts, and I dont know any of the statistics (after a brutal course in college I will never again pay much attention to statistics.) What I do know is what I see with my own eyes and what I experience when I travel and when I work.
I know that every country and every region has problems with drug addiction to varying degrees. However I also know that in developing countries the problem is much, much worse than anything we see in the west.
During my recent trip to Uganda I spent a good deal of my time in the slums of Kampala photographing the lives of the children that live in the midst of poverty and chaos. In these areas, drug addiction takes on new meaning. There are literally hundreds of children living on the streets as drug addicts. Their drug of choice is the only one that they can afford, glue. The vast majority are battered and bruised from constant fighting, wearing filthy, tattered clothes.
Now add to this the fact that many of these children are missing hands and feet. You see they cant afford food...the glue they sniff is cheaper and it takes the hunger pains away. Of course the glue is not free and some of the children have been known to steal in order to feed their addition. In an area where no-one has much of anything, the locals hide crude bear and wild animal traps to keep the children away. It does little to solve or help the problem, other than taking the child off the streets for a week or two after they have lost fingers, toes or a limb.
Like most things in life, the problem is complex. The most simple solution would be to make it more difficult for the children to get the glue that they sniff, as all they have to do is go to any one of the vendors on the street that will put some glue in an empty bottle for the children to sniff. Locals agree that the children should not be sold glue, but the public official of this area (basically the mayor of this district I am told) is the one who imports the drugs and supplies the street level dealers. His money and power keep him safe.
Two boys pass a bottle of glue back forth, sniffing it in a back alley of a slum in order to get high.
A young addict getting high.
A teenager sleeping on the streets.
The filthy clothes of a child drug addict living homeless on the streets.
A teenage drug addict shows off scars he received in a street fight. Most of the young addicts have no education and solve disputes violently between themselves.
A teenager exposes his foot which was caught in a bear trap. Residents of many areas place bear and other crude metal traps around their property to keep the young drug addicts away.
Metal traps for sale in a local market.
A street kid with an injury from a trap.
A girl plays with an empty syringe that she found on the street.
A boy waits behind a mesh fence for medical aid.
Patrick, a young man who made it out of the slums and started his own organization, cleans the wounds of a street kid who was injured by a police beating. There are few if any other organizations that provide help and outreach to local children.
Patrick hands out bread to young drug addicts after they received medical aid and a talk about life and how to get off of the streets.
A fight breaks out among teenagers for the last remaining piece of bread.
Street kids pass time in an alleyway that up to 30 kids sleep in each night.
Teen drug addicts sleeping in an alley.
Men smoke crack cocaine in a slum crack house. Most child drug addicts continue their addiction as adults, moving on to heavier drugs such as crack and heroine.
Former street children and child drug addicts sing during classes in school and home founded by a former street kid.
A brief note and request:
Many of these photos, and many photos that have been displayed on this site over the past few weeks, could not have been captured without the help of my dear friend Patrick. He was raised on the streets and has gone on to help children get out of horrible situations. He is 21 years old and cares for 43 orphans in a house he built and founded himself. Twice a week he does outreach for street children and drug addicted children in the slums of Kampala, many of whom end up being cared for and educated in his home. His organization is www.raisinguphope.wetpaint.com He is currently looking for volunteers to come to Uganda to help him, and of course funding for his sustainable projects. I have met this man, spent weeks getting to know him and can say that he is a true, kind and amazing soul. It is a gift if you have the chance to meet him and I vouch for him 100% His work is important and if you can help him I promise your time and money is better spent on things like this than most other charities. Follow his link and contact him if there is any help you may be able to offer.