March 9, 2010

Developing Countries Face Drug ‘Disaster’

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said on Monday that developing countries might face a "health disaster" if wealthy countries fail to control drugs.

"The developing world lacks the treatment facilities and law enforcement to control drugs," UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costas said at a meeting in the Austrian capital of Vienna.

"This seems to have been forgotten by people in rich countries calling for loosening of drug controls," Costas said.

"Why condemn the Third World, already ravaged by so many tragedies, to the neo-colonialism of drug dependence?"

Costas said the increasing use of heroin in East Africa, cocaine in West Africa, and synthetic drugs in the Middle East and South East Asia are warning signs.

He said that drug addiction was a treatable condition, but inequality "within and between states marginalizes poor people who lack access to treatment."

Alil Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the UN organizations in Vienna, said drugs were "a king of weapon of mass destruction.  It's a threat destroying the foundation of families."

Soltanieh said that in order to fight drug trafficking in Afghanistan, the world's largest supplier of opium, "it's not only the countries in the region -- Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan -- but all countries involved in the region, directly or indirectly, (which) have to come together and work together."

According to Soltanieh, the UNODC was working with the World Health Organization to try and achieve universal access to drug treatment.  At the same time, they were working with UNAIDS to try and prevent the spread of HIV among injecting addicts.

It was also up to rich countries to "unleash the capacity of drugs to do good", Costas said.

"The medical use of narcotic drugs continues to be indispensable for the relief of pain and suffering," he said.

Member states need to "overcome cultural and socio-economic factors that deny a Nigerian suffering from AIDS or a Mexican cancer patient the morphine offered to Italian or American counterparts."


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