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Afghanistan - The Toughest Battle
Passing on Afghanistan's addiction
There are one million opium addicts in Afghanistan and most of them are under 15.
Last Modified: 21 May 2007 11:39 GMT

Zarbibi says she now regrets giving
her son opium

Afghanistan remains infamous as an exporter of opium. However, opium use within the country is just as rampant, with perhaps one million addicts in the country, according to the UN, of whom more than 600,000 are under the age of 15.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr travelled to the mainly rural province of Badakshan in northeastern Afghanistan, where children under five years old are routinely given opium by their mothers.

Three-year-old Said is an opium addict. Without it, he becomes restless.

His mother Zarbibi shares her child's condition. She herself is a user and has been one for the past four years.

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Watch Zeina Khodr's report on Afghanistan's child drug addicts.

Zarbibi routinely blows opium into Said's face to keep him quiet. It is the only way she knows how to free herself so that she can work.

She said: "Whenever I have chores or work at home, I give my son opium so he would stay calm.

"I also give him opium so he can sleep. When I realised he became an addict, I regretted it."

Limited treatment

Another mother told us a similar story but she would not give her name.

There is limited treatment for addicts
in the province of Badakshan
Her five-year-old daughter inherited her addiction in the womb.

But it did not stop there. She continues to breast-feed her with opium-laced milk and tells us that she blows opium smoke on her child's face to keep her from crying.

The women live in Faizabad, where more and more children are becoming opium addicts.

What is making matters worse in this province is that there is only limited treatment available.

Rural crisis

There is only one drug rehabilitation centre in the whole area. It does not have the resources, expertise or budget to deal with the growing number of users.

Only 25 out of the 13,000 registered users in Badakshan receive help every month.

Doctors tell us the situation is worse in the villages, but it is simply too far for many to come for treatment, especially children. There, opium is used instead of medicine.

Much attention is being paid to Afghanistan's export of opium, but few talk about the drugs that stay within the country.

There is no shortage of drugs in Afghanistan - and no shortage of reasons for children to try to escape the world in which they are trapped.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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