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International Federation of Green Crescent discussed Covid-19 and addiction with over 80 countries participating
Green Crescent brought together 80 countries for the 5th Capacity Building Program, with the participation of the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO) and international NGOs. Green Crescent President Prof. Mücahit Öztürk, expressing the scientific nature of their struggle against addiction, said, “We share our experiences with the world at a time when addictions have become an increasingly important agenda item due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Prof. Toker Ergüder, National Professional Officer for Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-Course, at the WHO Country Office in Turkey, drawing attention to the fact that four deaths occur every second that can be attributed to first-hand or second-hand tobacco consumption, stated that the use of tobacco increases both the intensity of the coronavirus disease once contracted, and mortality risk in hospitalized patients.
Green Crescent came together with over 80 Country Green Crescents under the umbrella of the International Federation of Green Crescent (IFGC) to facilitate the sharing of information and experiences, and to strengthen the struggle against addiction in all countries. The 5th Capacity Building Program, held online on December 8-10, 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic, was attended by 200 people, including representatives from the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO) and international NGOs. The three-day program included discussions of the effects of COVID-19 on addictions – namely tobacco, alcohol, drug, gaming, gambling and technology – during the pandemic, and local and regional presentations by IFGC members in which they shared the studies and the works being implemented in their own countries.
Green Crescent President Prof. Mücahit Öztürk, underlining the global issue of addiction problem, stated in his opening address:
“We, as Green Crescent, began our struggle against addiction 100 years ago, aiming to protect the young people in our country. As time passed, we witnessed the threat of addiction growing larger, not only in our own country, but around the world, and this led us to launch efforts to establish Country Green Crescents. Today, we are continuing our struggle against tobacco, alcohol, drug, gambling and technology addictions through scientific methods, and as the flagship/leading organization in this field, we gladly share our experiences with the entire world. In 2020, addictions have gained even more importance following the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting lockdowns, and in the difficulties faced by people in satisfying their social needs. We believe that bolstering our efforts in our struggle against addictions with the insights gained from discussions of the effect of the pandemic on addictions, and the experiences of different countries in this field, is among our fundamental responsibilities.”
Addiction Prevention Training Program of Turkey will be disseminated around the world amid the pandemic
Touching on the Turkish Green Crescent’s activities in prevention and rehabilitation, Prof. Öztürk said: “The most effective step in the struggle against addiction is its prevention in the first place. For this reason, we place utmost importance in prevention, working with children and young people with a view to increasing their awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle. The Addiction Prevention Training Program, developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, is quite significant in this regard. We hope that moving the program online during the pandemic will allow us to reach more young people in our country and, with the help of the Country Green Crescents, to disseminate the program around the world. We will provide the necessary support to all countries in this issue.”
Tobacco use increases the risk of COVID-19 infection and the severity of its symptoms
Sharing his evaluations on COVID-19 and tobacco addiction, Prof. Ergüder said:
“Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year, while a further 1.2 million people die annually due to the effects of second-hand smoke, including 65,000 children. Globally, more than 22,000 people every day, or to reframe the issue, four people per second, lose their lives to first- or second-hand tobacco usage. Additionally, the risk of COVID-19 infection is increased in those who use tobacco, as smoking makes it more difficult to refrain from touching one’s face, and since it is mostly a social activity, it reduces the likelihood of safe social distancing being maintained. The shared use of hookah (water pipe) increases the risk of infection. Those who smoke or who use tobacco products are more likely to experience more severe symptoms associated with the coronavirus, as tobacco weakens the immune system, damages the lungs and hampers immune response. A WHO study conducted in May 2020 reported that all current evidence points to tobacco being associated with increased symptom severity in those with COVID-19 infections, and a greater risk of mortality in hospitalized patients.”
Green Crescent working to raise addiction-free generations in over 80 countries
Emphasizing the importance of sharing the experiences gained in over 80 countries throughout the year via the Capacity Building Program, IFGC President İhsan Karaman stated: “We set off on a path with the goal of implementing effective addiction prevention measures globally within the scope of the IFGC, working together with the Country Green Crescents. We believe wholeheartedly in the importance of acting together to raise generations that are free from addiction.”
During the meeting, while establishing the visions for the future of the 81 IFGC member countries, discussions were held on addiction prevention programs, the exemplary projects being carried in individual countries and the Turkish Green Crescent’s International Financial Support Program.
Green Crescent shared its experiences on addiction prevention amid the COVID-19 pandemic during the meeting, while Giovanna Campello, Prevention, Treatment & Rehabilitation Section Chief, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), gave a speech on “COVID-19 and Drugs”; Prof. Toker Ergüder, National Professional Officer for Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-Course, at the WHO Country Office in Turkey, gave a speech on “COVID-19 and Tobacco”; and Amy Ronshausen, Executive Director of the Drug-Free America Foundation and International President of the World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD) gave a speech on “COVID-19 and Alcohol”.