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Afghanis Combat Opium Dependency

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    Combating Dependency in Afghanistan Islamic Relief http://www.irw.org/wherewework/afghanistan/dependency The Rise and Response to Opium Dependency in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 7, 2008
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      Combating Dependency in Afghanistan
      Islamic Relief
      http://www.irw.org/wherewework/afghanistan/dependency


      The Rise and Response to Opium Dependency in Afghanistan
      For many people in Afghanistan without access to healthcare, opium
      is often the only means they haveto control pain. However, there is
      now a massive culture of dependency throughout the country, creating
      serious social, economic and health effects on those who are
      addicted as well as their families and communities. Islamic Relief
      has opened a new health center in northern Afghanistan to treat
      dependency, giving people a chance to combat their addiction and
      begin a new life.

      Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium and heroin; a
      rising number of Afghans are also becoming dependent on the drug.
      One of the provinces most severely affected is Balkh in northern
      Afghanistan. Here, opium is often traded like tea and is largely
      considered to be a medicine rather than a dangerous drug.

      Many of the people dependent on opium in Balkh are women who use it
      to dull the pain caused by working for many hours on heavy weaving
      looms. However, the dependency is affecting their health,
      livelihoods and ability to care for their children. In order to
      tackle this problem, Islamic Relief has been working in partnership
      with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and has
      established a Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center, in northern
      Balkh's Shortepa District that provides counseling, detoxification
      services, and medical care.

      Taza's Pain

      After living in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan for 15 years, 42-
      year-old Taza Gul, along with her husband and children, returned to
      their native Afghanistan in 2001 hoping for a fresh start in life.

      They returned home with nothing, except the food package they
      received from the United Nations, and had to stay with relatives for
      a few months before getting their own two-roomed house in a small
      village in Shortepa. Unfortunately, Taza Gul, a patient at Islamic
      Relief 's drug center in Shortepa, is just one of the many number of
      women who are dependent on drugs in Afghanistan. She suffers from
      many medical and psychological problems. She often feels suicidal,
      blames herself for her children's addiction to opium and considers
      herself unable to care for them.

      "I gave birth to 11 daughters and sons but unfortunately six of them
      have passed away," said Taza Gul. "In my last unsafe delivery I gave
      birth to twin male babies with the support of an inexperienced,
      traditional birth attendant. I suffered severe problems after the
      birth and became seriously sick with continuous, intolerable pain."

      Unending Agony

      "As the time passed, my problem got so complicated and the pain
      became tremendously agonizing, that I started crying all day and
      night. This is when I was advised by an addict to use the opium for
      pain relief. I found it relaxed me and got rid of my pain and I
      didn't have any other access to painkillers because there was no
      health center here at the time," she continued.

      "None of my other family members ever advised me to stop. My
      husband, two young sons and many other close relativesalso use the
      drug."

      "The health of my twin babies was very bad. They looked so weak and
      pale because we could not afford to give them enough food or
      healthcare. He deteriorated so badly that he died when he was only
      eight months old."

      Determined to Change

      "This event has deeply touched my senses and I am now determined to
      give more time to the surviving twin and to save his life. I started
      working hard with my husband on our small home farm and tried to get
      laboring work where I could, but I found it difficult to leave my
      child at home as he used to cry when I was not there," Taza
      explained.

      "Unfortunately I took the advice of another neighbor who told me to
      give my child some of the same ghost (opium) to relax him so I could
      go out to work. Many other mothers also do this. It is the decision
      between staying at home and having no money or to calm my sons with
      the drug so I can earn money for their food. I made the wrong
      decision and gave him the drug so I could go and work. "

      Uncertain Future

      "I am sad not only because I am an addict but because I don't know
      what the future of my sons will be. They have never been to school
      and have no interest in going. I wish me and my family could give
      the drug up and I am hopeful that the treatment I am receiving will
      help me."

      Islamic Relief's Work

      Islamic Relief 's drug treatment and rehabilitation center in
      Shortepa provides residential care as well as in home support,
      including counseling, detoxification, advice and regular follow-ups
      to check patients' progress. This is part of a general health clinic
      that provides over 7,500 people with basic health care including
      prenatal and post-natal care. The staff also carries out educational
      awareness-raising sessions concerning the harmful effects of drug
      use within the local communities.

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