I won’t claim to be a specialist on the subject of child drug addicts, and I don’t 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 can’t 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 addiction. 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 simplest 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. •
Zoriah Miller is an award-winning photojournalist. His work has been featured in some of the world’s most prestigious galleries, museums and publications. With a background in disaster management and humanitarian aid, Zoriah specializes in documenting human crises in developing countries. He periodically works with the Denver VOICE or provides photo-essays related to local, national or international poverty and homelessness.