September 5, 2008

Afghan Officials Say Unemployment Main Cause of Rise in Drug Addiction in North

Text of report by state-run Iranian radio external service from Mashhad on 4 September

[Presenter] Provincial officials in northern Balkh Province have expressed concerns over increase in number of drug-addicts in this province. According to Dr Abdul Mobin Soltankhel, the head of hospital for the drug-addicts, the number of addicts in this province has doubled since last year. He said the report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes also shows a dramatic increase. He said:

[Dr Soltankhel] Based on an assessment by UNODC [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes], the number of drug addicts in this province was between 55,000 to 60,000 last year but the current reports shows the number has doubled. Hundreds of women are also among the addicts mainly in three districts of Balkh Province, including Dawlatabad, Kaldar and Shortepa. We are very worried about this increase and despite all efforts we are still unable to limit the spread of this calamity among people.

[Reporter] Dr Soltankhel also spoke about launch of an awareness campaign about the harm of narcotics. He said that the campaign would mainly focus on schools because officials are worried about spread of addition among students. In regard with the campaign he said:

[Dr Soltankhel] The campaign is aimed at promoting awareness among the people in particular among the young students in schools. The people are being briefed on harms of narcotics, ways to avoid it and statistics on drug-addicts in Afghanistan and in Balkh Province.

[Reporter] The officials at the hospital for drug-addicts have also expressed concern over increase in number of women becoming drugs addicts. Dr Hafiza, one of the doctors in the mentioned hospital speaks about the reasons behind the increase in number of women addicts.

[Dr Hafiza] Unfortunately, the people, mainly the women do not have the required knowledge about harms of narcotics and they use it as medicine or painkillers mainly in remote areas where there is limited access to medicine and doctors. There are also women and girls inside the capital that use narcotics in some gatherings and ceremonies.

[Reporter] According to provincial officials poppy cultivation in Balkh Province has dropped to zero. However, the number of drug addicts has increased and this has created some concerns for health officials.

[Presenter] We have another report about the rise in the number of drug addicts in northeastern Badakhshan Province. In a gathering at the provincial capital, the district chiefs expressed concern over the number of drug addicts and linked it with unemployment, environment problems and easy access to narcotics. Please listen to a report on this:

[Reporter] The district chiefs in northern Badakhshan Province say that unemployment is the main reason behind increase in number of drug addicts in this province. The provincial officials in bordering districts claim that the number of young people getting used to narcotics is increasing with each passing day and it is mainly due to lack of employment and increase in drug-trafficking through the mentioned districts to the neighbouring Tajikistan. Mohammad Akhtar, the chief of Sheghnan District of Badakhshan Province said there are reports about the use of narcotics among schoolchildren and this has turned into a big challenge and concern for the people in the area. The district governor said that over 3,000 people have been addicted with narcotics and called unemployment, easy access to drugs as the main reasons behind the dramatic increase.

However, according to some people were addicted with opium claim that they got addicted because they had no access to medicines during the winter. However, the chief of Sheghnan District says there is a clinic in the district centre but some people in remote areas do not have access to medicines and use opium as a pain killer.

Meanwhile Sayed Omran, the district chief of Eshkashem called on the government to look for a solution to end this problem. He said the number of drug addicts is increasing and most of the drug- addicts resort to committing big and small crimes. According to the provincial officials the poppy cultivation rate in the province has dropped to zero but the number of drug addicts is still increasing.

Originally published by Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran External Service, Mashhad in Dari 1330 4 Sep 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring South Asia. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.