Afghanistan's War on Childhood Drug Addiction
For nigh on 200 years Afghanistan has been the victim of oppression from occupying forces, civil war or both.
A large country of multi - ethnic,clan society, it is the second poorest and second least developed country in the world.
The ravages of war, an unemployment rate of 36%, severe draughts and a failing infrastructure have all played their part in rendering the country into incapacitation.
However, all this pales into insignificance when compared with the new threat that the country is now struggling to cope with.
In recent years the crop that has given Afghanistan the dubious title of drug growing capital of the world, has found it's self new custom, by way of the very people who are producing it.
It has of course been used for years by the menfolk of Afghanistan, as in all cultures, there is always something to help you through the stresses of everyday life.
However, recent reports coming out of Afghanistan, would suggest that what started as a little harmless recreation by the menfolk has somehow escalated into a major problem of massive proportions with many women now taking up the habit, and more seriously, children.
It has been estimated that over 60% of the children in Afghanistan now have some form of opiate dependency.
The reasons for the children's addictions are many and varied and it paints an alarming picture for the people, the economy and the future of Afghanistan.
Afghan Women and children using opium.
There are new born babies becoming addicted by way of them feeding from the breast of their addict mothers and reports of parents giving opiates to their children as a form of sedation to enable them to go out and look for work.
Many of these people live in areas with little or nothing in the way of modern convieniences, no running water, no sewerage, no electricity and no healthcare.
In areas such as this opiates are now the chosen method of treatment for their children when confronted with crying babies or children who are in pain.
Opiates are also a well known form of hunger suppressor, making it an ideal way to cope with the tears of hungry children.
For people in these areas who find themselves caught up in the physical horrors of warfare, opiates are the ideal way to sedate someone who needs to be operated on by way of the village elder using a well sharpened parring knife whilst the family holds the patient down on the kitchen table. Opiates would also be used to keep pain at bay during post operative aftercare.
For older children who find themselves orphaned and homeless due to air strikes or suicide bombings, opiates are a great way to make up for the lack of bereavement therapy that of course is unheard of in Afghanistan.
For this latter group, this also brings about other problems, with health professionals having to cope with an upsurge of sexual health problems brought about by youngsters using sex as a form of currency to feed their habit.
Papaver Somniferum / Opium Poppy
Healthcare in Afghanistan is one of the country's few success stories, with well equipped hospitals and clinics and well trained doctors and nursing staff.
But this care is limited to only the city areas, with the people who live in the far flung reaches of the tribal hinterlands, not being privy to such luxuries.
There are of course many aid workers in Afghanistan who are well trained and equipped to deal with the normal baby innoculation and child healthcare regime projects paid for by us in the west, but these people are not trained or remotely qualified to deal with childhood drug addiction or able to help with sexual health matters in a society that finds such things taboo.
Aid workers are in a position where they can not ask about sexual health matters and because of the taboo, the children don't bring it to their attention, therefore sexual health matters are left to get worse through lack of medication.
Money both by way of charitable donation and goverment aid means that finance is not a problem for Afghanistan's health professionals, they simply find themselves in a position of never having been trained to deal with such matters as drug abuse, sexual health or severe psychological trauma, that coupled with these problems being on such a large scale, drug rehabilitation is now of paramount importance for the people of Afghanistan, before they find themselves having more casualties from drug abuse than they do from the casualties of war.
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© D.B.Bellamy.October, 2010.