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Harm-reduction centre advances social justice

091005_06
Injectiion drug users arrive at Korsang’s drop-in centre in Phnom Penh’’s Chamkarmon district for a meal on Sunday.

Dear Editor,

I read with dismay the article in your paper (“Locals say syringe handouts draw criminals”, (September 28) that reported on the concerns of the community in which Korsang resides. I guess that the adage “not in my backyard” extends all over the world. I understand the roots of the neighbours’ fears; drug addicts have been marginalised, vilified and criminalised globally.

However, I think the concerns of the community can be addressed. Ongoing involvement, frequent communication and the establishment of a system that takes into account both the needs of those already established in the community as well as the newcomers (the residents of Korsang). By providing users with clean needles and respect, the number of users will be reduced and the society will benefit in many ways.

Poverty, homelessness and addiction are not moral failures but the results of government systems and policies that do not address the welfare of all members of a society. Harm-reduction – the basic theory that guides the work of Korsang – is based on reducing harm to one’s self by reducing shame, providing what is needed to consider getting off drugs and by providing the tools necessary to live a cleaner and more decent life.

I have visited Korsang twice in the past several years and have been impressed with the quality of the work that this organisation provides.
Against incredible odds, the staff have provided local users with clean needles, information about drug use, AIDS, and other diseases and issues. They provide a comfortable place for users to go, a place for education, food and comfort, a place where they are not treated like awful people but people with addictions and other resulting issues.

Korsang is an organisation that is based on principles of social justice and caring. I encourage you to explore further in your reporting so that these principles can be brought to light. Thank you.

Eleanor Roffman
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

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