Illicit Drugs in Afghanistan
The total opium cultivation in 2008 in Afghanistan is estimated at 157,000 hectares (ha), a 19% reduction compared to 2007. Unlike previous years, 98% of the total cultivation is confined to seven provinces with security problems: five of these provinces are in the south and two in the west of Afghanistan.
Of the 34 provinces in the country, 18 were poppy-free in 2008 compared to 13 in 2007. This includes the eastern province of Nangarhar, which was the number two cultivator in 2007 and now is free from opium cultivation. At the district level, 297 of Afghanistan's 398 districts were poppy free in 2008. Only a tiny portion of the total cultivation took place in the north (Baghlan and Faryab), north-east (Badakhshan) and east (Kunar, Laghman and Kapisa). Together, these regions accounted for less than 2% of cultivation. The seven southern and western provinces that contributed to 98% of Afghan opium cultivation and production are Hilmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Daykundi, Zabul, Farah and Nimroz.
This clearly highlights the strong link between opium cultivation and the lack of security. The total opium production in 2008 is estimated at 7,700 metric tons (mt), a 6% reduction compared to production in 2007. Almost all of the production (98%) takes place in the same seven provinces where the cultivation is concentrated and where the yield per hectare was relatively higher than in the rest of the country. All the other provinces contributed only 2% to the total opium production in the country.
The gross income for farmers who cultivated opium poppy was estimated at US$ 730 million in 2008. This is a decrease from 2007, when farmgate income for opium was estimated at US$ 1 billion.
Following the 19 % reduction in opium cultivation in 2008 (157,000 ha), the 2009 Opium Winter Rapid Assessment anticipates a further decrease in opium cultivation.
• There are no provinces which are likely to show an increase in opium cultivation.
• The eighteen provinces reported to be poppy-free in 2008, are likely to remain poppy free in 2009. ORA results indicate that our teen are confirmed as likely to remain poppy free while the other four provinces, Nangarhar, Ghor, Samangan, and Sari Pul, could not yet be ascertained. Nangarhar is likely to be almost poppy free but more data is needed for confirmation. The results for Ghor, Samangan and Sari Pul provinces could not be assessed since cultivation in these provinces takes place during the spring season (March/April).
• A strong decrease in opium cultivation is expected in Baghlan and Hirat provinces and opium elimination activities can make these provinces poppy-free.
• A decrease in opium cultivation is expected in seven provinces: Badakhshan, Badghis, Faryab, Kabul, Kapisa, Kunar and Laghman. Badakhshan and Faryab provinces have the potential to become poppy-free if opium cultivation in spring is controlled. The level of opium cultivation in other provinces will remain significantly low.
• The seven provinces in the south and south-west region (Day Kundi, Farah, Hilmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul) which accounted for 98% of Afghanistan's opium cultivation in 2008, are likely to show a decrease in 2009. It is expected that this region will still remain the most significant with over 90% cultivation in Afghanistan.
• Overall, the cultivation of opium in Afghanistan is likely to decrease in 2009 and the number of poppy-free provinces may increase to twenty-two if timely and appropriate poppy eradication measures are implemented in Baghlan, Hirat, Badakhshan and Faryab provinces.
UNODC's strategy for Afghanistan recognizes that drug demand and associated problems affect social, political and economic development. Domestic demand also creates a market for opiate production and is undermining law enforcement effectiveness through addiction within security forces, drug-related petty crime and drug abuse in prisons. Our demand reduction and HIV/AIDS work exploits these links with our criminal justice, law enforcement and counter-narcotics activities.
Conflict, displacement, economic hardship and overflowing opium production have generated widespread drug abuse in Afghanistan. This is an individual health problem, a problem for social cohesion, a brake on economic productivity, a drain on scarce healthcare resources and a challenge for political stability. Situations such as the former Russian Cultural Centre in Kabul - where UNODC has assisted the Government in coordinating a response to a population of more than 1000 drug users, many of whom have returned from Pakistan and Iran - provide stark demonstrations of the links between drugs, conflict, displacement and disease.
The prevalence of drug abuse in Afghanistan, including an apparent shift towards higher-grade opiates and pharmaceuticals, is a significant public health challenge that is straining social and Governmental resources. There is a pressing need to develop an effective prevention program in order to relieve pressure on the health system and to preserve social cohesion and economic productivity. Prevention activities to date have been ad hoc and have left little sustainable capacity in the Government.
Afghanistan's drug addiction problems are broad and varied, but coverage by treatment and rehabilitation services is very limited. One indication is the appearance of concentrated drug user populations in some towns and cities; another indication is the lack of services available to deal with widespread rural addiction. Foreign assistance has focused on short-term funding for non-government treatment centres. The Government's capacity to train, coordinate and administer treatment and rehabilitation services has received little attention.
The current roll-out of the Basic Package of Health Services into priority provinces offers an opportunity for this project, which will ensure that community health workers have the skills to identify drug-related problems. They will be able to provide basic in-clinic or community-based treatment and rehabilitation, or refer to an active network of service providers. The project will also expand the cooperation piloted between UNODC, the Government and other stakeholders in finding comprehensive solutions to concentrated drug user populations.