An Egyptian drugs rehabilitation hotline has seen a fourfold rise in calls after the release of a campaign featuring Liverpool footballer Mohamed Salah, according to Egypt Today.
The "Say No to Drugs" campaign set up by the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity and the Fund for Drug Control and Treatment of Addiction (FDCTA) launched at the end of last month and features Salah watching as a boy is forced to choose between hanging out with people who take drugs or his friends. At the end of the video, Salah looks at the camera and says: "Say No to Drugs" in Arabic, with the advert displaying the hotline number.
Say NO to drugs!
أنت أقوي من المخدرات… pic.twitter.com/6tJYRpBPc0
— Mohamed Salah (@22mosalah) March 31, 2018
The video went viral on social media in Egypt, exceeding five million views in the first three days of its release.
"Some 88 percent of the viewers were between 18-35 years. Facebook, Instagram and Youtube videos have been watched for 8 million and 400,000 times, shared 23,000 times and liked by 359,000 users." Egyptian Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Wali said.
Last week, the minister further confirmed that the drugs rehabilitation hotline had witnessed an overwhelming 400 per cent increase in calls after the campaign due to the cameo appearance made by the football star.
This is the fourth time Salah has been involved in the campaign to tackle drug abuse in the country. Egyptian singer Mohamad Hamaki also sings the background track in the video calling on viewers to "build your life" and ensure friends "care for you".
Drug addiction in Egypt is estimated to be at twice global rates, with approximately ten per cent of the country, over nine million people, using narcotics, Wali revealed earlier this year. The government has also launched an initiative to reduce drug usage among school bus drivers after it was found that all 56 drivers who had been reported for suspected drug use by parents in the first semester of the academic year, failed to pass a drugs test.
Tramadol is the most popular drug among users, followed by cannabis and heroin. The usage of Tramadol, in particular, has surged since 2010, with many attributing the rise to the difficult economic situation the country is facing and a sense of hopelessness amongst the youth.
Drugs enter Egypt from South Asia, usually via sea and airports, and are then distributed across the North Africa region and into Europe. Drug trafficking in Egypt is also a core activity of transnational organised crime networks.