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Published on January 24th, 2011 | by Impunity Watch Archive

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Afghan Children Opium Addictions

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch; Asia

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan – Within a little know Afghan province, Aziza, feeds her four-year-old son pure Opium for breakfast.

Afghan child working in an Afghan opium field

Afghan child working in an Afghan opium field

“If I don’t give him opium he doesn’t sleep,” she says. “And he doesn’t let me work.”

Many poor families, like Aziza, born to a family of carpet weavers in Balkh province has no education, no idea of the health risks involved or that opium is addictive.

“We give the children opium whenever they get sick as well,” says Aziza.

“People use opium as drugs or medicine. If a child cries, they give him opium, if they can’t sleep, they use opium, if an infant coughs, they give them opium,” reports CNNs Arwa Damon.

With no real medical care in these parts and the high cost of medicine, all the families out here know is opium.

Opium has become a cycle of addiction passed on through generations. The adults take opium to work longer hours and ease their pain.

“I had to work and raise the children, so I started using drugs,” she says. “We are very poor people, so I used opium. We don’t have anything to eat. That is why we have to work and use drugs to keep our kids quiet.”

The Balkin province is famous for its carpets. It’s so remote there are no real roads. The dirt roads that exist are often blocked by landslides.

The neighboring government-run drug therapy center is a four-hour drive away. But it has just 20 beds and a handful of staff to deal with the epidemic, says CNNs Arwa Damon.

“Opium is nothing new to our villages or districts. It’s an old tradition, something of a religion in some areas,” said Dr. Mohamed Daoud Rated, coordinator of the center. The center is running an outreach program to the areas that are most afflicted.

Most Afghans aren’t aware of the health risks of opium and only a few are beginning to understand the hazards of addiction.

“I was a child when I started using drugs” 35-year-old Nagibe says. She says her sister-in-law first gave her some when she was a young teenage bride, just 14 years old. Her children grew up addicts as well.

She has been clean for four months, hoping to leave the addiction behind, but every day is a struggle.

Three generations of one family, all struggling with a curse that afflicts well over one million Afghans.

A recent surge in opium prices could encourage Afghan farmers to expand cultivation of the narcotic crop and reverse advances in the fight against drug production.

UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said, “If this cash bonanza lasts, it could effectively reverse the hard-won gains of recent years.”

For more information, please see:

CNN – Afghan infants fed pure opium – 23 January 2011

AOL news – Spike in Opium Prices Threatens Progress in Afghan Drug War – 20 January 2011

Top Wire XS – A Terrible Lullaby for Afghan Babies – 24 January 2011

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