Pattern and practice of psychoactive substance abuse and risky behaviours among street children in Cameroon
Background. Cameroon is among other developing countries reported to be facing an increasing problem of street children involved in drug abuse and other harmful behaviours. Although there are some government efforts to intervene, little is known about the extent of psychoactive substance abuse and the related behaviours among street children in Cameroon. The information is critical to support policy formulation and the implementation of interventions to tackle this problem.
Objective. To document the pattern and practice of psychoactive substance abuse and the related risky behaviours among street children in three cities in Cameroon.
Methods. This study was an analytical cross-sectional survey conducted by the administration of questionnaires to 399 street children who had been homeless for at least a month in three cities of Cameroon during 2015.
Results. All 399 participants reported that they were using some psychoactive substance at the time of the survey. The preferred substances were alcohol (45.9%), tobacco (28.8%), volatiles (11.5%) and cannabis (10.3%). Girls were more predisposed to sex work for survival than boys (p<0.000), with the majority of the participants reporting to have had unprotected sex after using any drug or consuming alcohol (93.98%). In most cases, the pattern and practice of psychoactive substance abuse were higher in the cities of Douala and Yaoundé than in Bamenda. The participants reported that the substances were readily available from street vendors.
Conclusion. The results revealed that the level of psychoactive substance abuse is very high among street children, especially boys, in all three cities. Efforts to prevent and rehabilitate street children from abusing psychoactive substances are required. The government, roleplayers, decision-makers, the ministry of trade and industry and all stakeholders working with street children should consider working together in order to improve the quality of life for street children in Cameroon