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In commemoration of World Overdose Day, 31 August 2020, and in remembrance of all those who had passed away due to an overdose, the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Urban Futures Centre (UFC) in collaboration with the Bellehaven Memorial Centre in Durban, held an evening vigil to remember and raise awareness of those who have passed on due to an overdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on 31 August every year and its goal is to raise awareness of overdose, spreads the message that overdose death is preventable, and lessen the stigma of a drug-related death. It also recognises the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

The Bellehaven Memorial Centre is a site of a wellness centre, where homeless people struggling with drug addiction can be admitted and seek help. Caring nurses like Loeness Meth and Carla-Louise Harwood play a huge role in helping those who look for help with their drug addiction on site.

Offering his words of wisdom and prayers was Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, who said it was vital to give support and encourage those who need help with their drug addiction and to not judge them.

Speaking at the event Professor Monique Marks, Head of the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology (UFC@DUT), has been offering her support at shelters like the Bellehaven Memorial Centre, said the day is in honour of all who have died of an overdose, and to also help those struggling with drug addiction. She said that places like the Bellehaven Memorial Centre aims to help those in need and the needle and syringe programme is a highly effective harm-reduction initiative that involves providing free clean needles to people who inject (themselves) with drugs (PWIDs).

She also said that drug overdoses (lethal and non-lethal) are occurring and that community awareness is vital. “Some people use drugs to cope with trauma, family difficulties or pain. If your loved one is actively using drugs or is at risk of an overdose, encourage them to follow harm reduction practices and use harm reduction services. If we can get people to reduce the use of drugs we have done a small bit to stop overdoses. We need to think of the importance of decriminalising drugs,” she said.

Michael Wilson, who is instrumental in providing Naxalone training which is an antidote to opioid overdose, said that the importance of the use of the drug is very limited, and more awareness of its benefits for opioid overdoses needs to be made.

Also lending his support is Durban psychiatrist Dr Shaquir Salduker, who praised ‘heroes’ like Prof Marks and of the Bellehaven Memorial Centre, who are doing some form of education about drug usage. He also expressed the importance of educating people who are using drugs and the consequences of their actions.

Some of the residents of the Bellehaven Memorial Centre also spoke candidly of their journey into drugs, the help they had received at the Centre and also expressed their gratitude to Prof Marks, the Centre staff, Dr Salduker and Wilson for their unwavering support and love, as well as encouraged those seeking help to come through to the Centre for advice and assistance.

If anyone would like to provide any form of help to the Bellehaven Memorial Centre, can call 081 402 0048.

Pictured: Attendees at the evening vigil at the Bellehaven Memorial Centre.

Waheeda Peters

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