Kabul drug addicts running out of hope
KABUL, 30 August 2009 (IRIN) - Ehsanullah, aged 28,
has been on a waiting list for nearly three months to
be admitted to an NGO-run drug addicts’ rehabilitation
centre in Kabul. He cannot get in because there are
too many people ahead of him on the list.
About 200 drug users, mainly heroin addicts, have
been hanging around for months in rooms and tents on
the premises of the centre, where free treatment is
provided by a couple of NGOs.
Tariq Sulaiman, director of the Nejat Centre (one
of the NGOs), regretted that the rehabilitation centre
only had 100 beds.
Most of those hanging around are addicts from the
provinces and rural areas who have no accommodation in
“I have been waiting here for over two months,”
said an addict from the northern province of Faryab.
“We are often starving,” said another man seeking
“When we go outside people make fun of us and
sarcastically call us `podary’ [heroin addict],” said
Shir Agha, another addict.
Risk of closure
The centre was set up in May 2009 with funding from
the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and
help from the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).
“Since May we have treated and rehabilitated about
400 addicts,” said Sulaiman of the Nejat NGO, adding
that the four-month project was due to close at the
end of August.
“So far no donor has assured us of funding after
August but we are optimistic the Ministry of Health
will help us,” he said.
MoPH officials said they were encouraging donors to
provide funding but no firm commitment had been
received by 26 August. It had, however, invited the
country director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
to attend a food aid event at the centre on 25 August.
Two million drug users
According to a UNODC survey, about 920,000 Afghans
used drugs such as heroin, hashish and opium in 2005.
An updated drug addiction report, due in 2009, is
expected to show a significant increase in the number
of drug users. A US Department of State report 2009
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report says
there are an estimated two million drug users in
“At least 50,000-60,000 drug addicts are in Kabul
alone,” said Sulaiman, adding that further efforts
were needed to treat and rehabilitate the country’s
increasing number of drug users.
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