News - Afghanistan
A grim picture emerged on Tuesday when William Brownfield, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, released the results of the Afghanistan World Drug Use survey which revealed that one in nine Afghans are drug users.
"This survey tells a disturbing story," Brownfield said at a joint press conference Tuesday with Afghan ministers of public health and counter-narcotics.
Based on the survey – which is prepared in cooperation by both the Afghan ministries and the U.S – three million Afghans are using drugs, of them 1.4 million are addicted to drugs.
"It suggests that 13 percent, which is nearly one in seven persons, in rural communities, is a user of drugs. Combined with a five percent estimate from the earlier urban drug use study this would suggest a national estimate of roughly 11 percent or one in every nine Afghan citizens."
The survey illustrates that the number of drugs users has increased three-fold since 2006 – when there was an estimated number of 900,000 drugs users across Afghanistan.
The figure reached one million in 2010 but it saw a sharp increase in 2012 when the total number of drug users was reported to be 1.6 million.
"Even more disturbing – the survey suggests that opioids, which leads to heroin and opium – the most disturbing of all the drugs, are the most prevalently, used drugs in the rural areas,"
Brownfield stated. "Even worse, it suggests that children, the most vulnerable of our populations, are also affected by this drug use."
Newly-appointed Minister of Counter-Narcotics, Salamat Azimi, acknowledged the sharp increase in the number of Afghan drug users, but said the government and international community have not studied the issue in depth.
"The matter has been overshadowed by security issues, while one of the major causes behind insecurity is addiction to drugs and its significant presence among youth," Azimi said.
The Afghan Minister of Public Health, Ferozuddin Feroz, also acknowledged the high number of drug addicts and blamed it on poverty and unemployment.
"Nearly one million children, according to the survey, are using drugs, of which, one percent is addicted," Feroz stated.
The survey follows closely on the heels of a U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report that stated recently that drug production in Afghanistan was on the rise despite Washington having spent $8.4 billion dollars in recent years on fighting drugs in the war-torn country.
According to SIGAR, millions of dollars from drug income was being pocketed by drug cartels.
Brownfield meanwhile said the U.S survey on drug use "is the most detailed study ever on this matter. It provided 100% toxicological screening and assessed all drugs and all drug use in rural areas".
He noted that there was a tendency by people to think drug problems were the problems of other countries and not problems of their own or that drugs and drug use is a police problem. However, this survey "suggests exactly the opposite".
"Drug use is an Afghan problem, an American problem and a problem for all 195 countries represented in the United Nations. It is not a foreign problem. It is a national problem and it is not just a police problem [but] it is also an education problem, a social problem and an economic problem."
"History has suggested and taught us for the last 50 years that drug abuse and drug use is a matter of shared responsibility." He said that no nation is completely responsible for this scourge and that no nation is removed from the problem.
He suggested that the key to tackling the problem was that it be a shared responsibility "and the solution must be a shared solution as well".