The United Nations’ drug agency called on Afghanistan to make headway in curbing its illicit opium production, saying that not enough has been done in recent years.
“There is also a need to do much more,” Yury Fedotov, the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said in a statement after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday in Kabul.
Afghanistan produces around 90 percent of the world’s illegal opium crops, used to manufacture heroin that is shipped all over the world. In October 2011, the UNODC reported that Afghanistan’s opium production had increased by 7 percent over the previous year, and that price of farm-grade opium increased by 133 percent compared with 2010 figures.
As a war-torn, impoverished nation, a good portion of Afghanistan’s economy comes from poppy production, making up 9 percent of the total GDP, not including profits from manufacturing and trafficking.
Much of the proceeds from opium production funds militant groups including the Taliban. According to Karzai’s office, places where government control is strong have seen a drop in opium production, while areas controlled by militants have driven the upswing in production.
“We must build the necessary political commitment, as well as practical action, to have tangible successes against the criminal networks that traffic in death and misery,” Fedotov said.
In a statement Tuesday, President Karzai’s office said opium cultivation, which became commonplace during the 1970s, has caused “tremendous harm” to Afghanistan and its identity. “Afghans get the blame while others get the benefit,” his office said.
“Drug trafficking and international terrorism were inextricably linked and that most of those involved in the trafficking business are not Afghans,” the statement reads.
Fedotov and Karzai agreed that a “shared responsibility” between the local government and the U.N. is the best way to deal with the country’s opium production, which contributes to the worldwide problem of heroin trafficking and the consumption of illegal opiates.
Karzai suggested that Afghanistan alone cannot deal with the problem, stressing that a concerted effort by international organizations and other countries is needed.Cultivation of the crop is an integral part of many Afghani families’ lives. The U.N. said it would provide “alternative livelihoods” to families dependent on growing opium.
And due to the crop’s proliferation, Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest rates of opium consumption, with 2.65 percent prevalence rate, according to the U.N. As a result, there has been an increase in HIV and AIDS, and other diseases among needle drug users in the country.
The U.N. said it would help in the “drug demand reduction” in Afghanistan while administering treatment and prevention measures for HIV and AIDS.
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