"Opium made me feel happy, very happy"



FatimaFatima Bibi (35) belongs to the Kochian tribe from Afghanistan. She fled Nangarhar in western Afghanistan in 1986 after the destruction that followed in the wake of the Russian invasion.
Since then, Fatima has been living in a refugee camp in Mianwali in north-western Pakistan. There are an estimated 17,000 registered Afghan refugees residing in Kot Chandna, but the actual number of refugees is thought to be much higher.
The camp is made up by mud houses with rudimentary sanitation facilities and a permanent lack of clean drinking water. Malnutrition, typhoid, malaria, tuberculosis and hepatitis are common.

Like most other women in the camp, Fatima has few opportunities to earn money. Fatima does embroidery and grows some vegetables, but that is hardly enough to make a living.

"I was depressed. Opium made me feel happy, very happy. At least in the beginning it did," says Fatima. "Then, gradually the happiness went away. But I could no longer do without the opium." Fatima says it was easy to get addicted to opium. There was ample in supply in the camp and no one warned her that the opium-induced euphoria quickly becomes a burden that is difficult to get rid of.
Fatima was working in the field when she met Zainab from the Indus Welfare Foundation. She wanted to get rid of her addiction, but didn't want to admit she had one, let alone to a stranger. It took months for Fatima to trust Zainab. It wasn't until they became friends that Fatima agreed to undergo treatment.
She was admitted at the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital, Kala Bagh for a detoxification treatment of six weeks.The real struggle only began after Fatima came back to the camp, in the same place where it was so easy to get addicted.
With the support of Zainab and a medical team, Fatima has resisted and continues to live a drug-free life.

She is now providing support to other women in the camp who are trying to give up opium.