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DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Every morning, hundreds of Tanzanians make their daily sojourn to a breezy open-air methadone clinic at Muhimbili National Hospital. Some travel on overcrowded local buses, and others walk for hours in Dar es Salaam’s sweltering heat.
One by one, the patients are called to a window, where a nurse behind a metal grate offers a plastic cup filled with liquid methadone.
“I decided to try methadone to become a new Stamil.
My health began improving, and I started gaining weight.” Muhimbili’s methadone clinic is the first of its kind in mainland sub-Saharan Africa.
Few governments, donors or nonprofits in Africa work with heroin users.
Médecins du Monde (MDM), an international nonprofit that serves heroin users in Tanzania, estimates that fewer than 1 percent of drug users on the continent have access to support services, let alone treatment plans like methadone. In 2009 the national government publicly declared that its drug users needed evidence-based treatment options. in recent years, and it has gained popularity elsewhere around the world.
With aid from the United States and Canada, Tanzania’s Ministry of Health approved a comprehensive plan to help prevent and treat heroin addiction. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), there are more than 500,000 heroin users in East Africa, where popular Indian Ocean drug trade routes make landfall.