How can you hope to battle organized, rich and ruthless international drugs gangs when there is not even a proper prison in the country?
This is the problem faced by the authorities in Guinea-Bissau, which some fear could be on its way to becoming Africa's first "narco-state".
Guinea-Bissau is the most evident example of the increasing use of West Africa byLatin American cocaine traffickers to get their wares into Europe.
The country is wracked by poverty, coups, political unrest and has a coastline full of uninhabited islands, creeks and swamps, providing the perfect cover for smugglers.
The problems are illustrated by three incidents which would be hilarious, if they did not reveal how vulnerable poor states are to the quick hit of drug money* In April, an estimated 2.5 metric tons of cocaine was flown into a military air-strip in Guinea-Bissau.
Two soldiers were arrested in cars packed with 635kg of the drug but the rest of the shipment got through, officials from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) believe, because the police did not have enough petrol in their cars to pursue the other traffickers.
Nevertheless,UNODC West Africa head Antonio Mazzitelli says the police officers involved were "heroes".
"They risked their lives, even though they had not been paid for three months at the time," he told the BBC News website.
Some senior officials, especially in the military, however, seem to have become involved in trafficking drugs.
In the second of Guinea-Bissau's comedy of errors, 674kg of cocaine,worth about $39m, or 13% of the country's total annual income, was found in the capital, Bissau, after a gun battle last year.
* In the past two weeks, almost 2.5 tons of cocaine has been found in neighboring Senegal - half on board a deserted sailing boat, along with plane tickets from Brazil to Bissau.
Officials battling to stem the flow of drugs from Latin America to Europe say they havemanaged to reduce both direct shipments and smuggling via the Caribbean, which had been one of the main routes.
So now the smugglers have switched their operations to West Africa.
Interpol estimates that more than a third of the cocaine arriving in Europe is trafficked through West Africa.
"We've been fighting the drugs war for 30 years - now a new front has opened up," a veteraninternational police official says.
He warns, however, that a successful way of reducing supply has not yet been found, while there is such strong demand in the West
Interpol will this week discuss doing more to help African authorities battle drug smugglers - but they are playing catch-up, while the trafficking networks are already well entrenched.
Portugal also says it will raise the issue duringits six-month presidency of the European Union, which has just begun.
* Teens in South Africa have found a new use for efavirenz (brand name Stocrin in South Africa and Sustiva in the U.S.), an antiretroviral drug that prevents HIV from making copies of itself in the body. Instead of using efavirenz as it was intended – to keep the AIDS virus at bay – kids are crushing the pills andsmoking the powder to get high, ABC News reports.
When taken as prescribed, efavirenz can cause side effects, including drowsiness and vivid, colorful dreams, but when smoked, it induces hallucinations and is highly addictive. "Once you've first started, there's no turning back," a 17-year-old addict told ABC News.
Krista Dong, an infectious disease specialist and internist at Edendale Hospitalin South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal province, tells ScientificAmerican.com that the abuse of efavirenz is nothing new.
"It was first reported at least one and a half years ago," she says, noting that the trend has led to stricter oversight of efavirenz in hospitals, which in turn has caused delays in delivering the drug to patients in need. Before efavirenz had any street value, nurses wheeling...