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Drug addiction plagues South African children

As the wold marks the United Nation's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on Thursday, South Africa, a giant in the global drug trade, is at breaking point with the number of child addicts reaching an all-time high.

JOHANNESBURG: Thursday marks the United Nation's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

Around the world, anti-drugs activists and community organisers are fighting a very personal battle against drugs in their neighbourhoods.

As a giant in the global drug trade, with the number of child addicts reaching an all-time high, South Africa is at breaking point.

South Africa, once famous for its “big five” game safari, is now becoming better known for its "big five" drugs.

Marijuana, crystal meth, heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamines are taking over the streets and injecting a new generation of deprived children with the plague of addiction.

The young addicts of El Dorado Park can be found in backstreet "lolly lounges" -- houses used as drugs and prostitution hubs by local gangsters.

Wayne Fearick, co-director of Comeback Mission Centre, said: “Our youngest drug addicts that we’ve recognised are eight-year-olds. I actually found a girl that I took out of the ‘lolly lounge’. They would gang-rape those girls. They would abuse those girls.”

Mr Fearick understands only too well the cycle of addiction and abuse that characterises many of those children's lives.

As co-director of the centre, he has spent the last four years working tirelessly to get vulnerable addicts off the streets.

But the problem is getting worse -- now, every third house is a “lolly lounge”, and without the resources to rehabilitate them, Mr Fearick can only look on and watch as the list of the dead and damaged grows longer.

The government isn't helping either.

Dr David Bayever, deputy chairperson of the Central Drug Authority, said: “We still have to root out all those people within the system that are unfortunately being bribed by the communities.”

Many politicians prefer to turn a blind eye to an illegal industry that lines a lot of pockets, including their own.

Meanwhile, young addicts are more concerned with getting their next fix.

Shani Krebs was once one of them. Twenty years ago he was sentenced to death for smuggling several kilos of heroin out of Thailand.

Eighteen years later, he was released on the King's pardon.

“I’d basically thrown my life away. I understood, you know, that there’s a chance – maybe I’m getting a second chance. ‘Cause if I didn’t go to prison, I probably would have died," he said.

Mr Shani may have gotten his second chance, but not everyone in El Dorado Park is that lucky.

South Africa, once proclaimed a ‘rainbow nation’, is now getting a reputation as the rainbow that leads to a pot of drugs, not gold. 

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