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United Nations Calls for Greater Assistance to Afghans in Fight Against Opium Cultivation
| ROME, 24 October -- "The annual Afghanistan Opium Survey for 2002, conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
(ODC*) has confirmed earlier indications of the considerable level of opium production in the country this year", the Executive Director, Antonio Maria Costa, announced at a press conference here today. Presenting the findings of the Survey, he said that 90 per cent of cultivation was concentrated in just five provinces in Afghanistan: Helmand in the south, followed by Nangarhar in the east, Badakhshan in the north, Uruzgan in the south/centre and Kandahar in the south.
"This year's survey has been conducted under the most challenging circumstances because of security concerns. The methodology was therefore based on high-resolution satellite images complemented by extensive ground verification and targeted ground surveys," Mr. Costa said.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has conducted annual opium surveys in Afghanistan since 1994, tracking the dramatic increase of the production in the Taliban years. By the late 1990s, Afghanistan provided about 70 per cent of global production of illicit opium, with Myanmar accounting for 22 per cent, and Lao People's Democratic Republic about 3 per cent. Illicit opiates of Afghan origin were consumed by an estimated 9 million abusers worldwide, which is two-thirds of all opiate abusers in the world. According to ODC estimates, about half a million people have been involved in the international trade of illicit Afghan opiates (opium, morphine, heroin) in recent years.
The total opium production in Afghanistan this year is estimated to amount to 3,400 metric tons, which is still 25 per cent lower than the record production of 1999 (4,600 metric tons).
"The high level of opium cultivation in Afghanistan this year is not a manifestation of a failure of the Afghan authorities or of the international efforts to assist them in drug control. The planting (of the 2002 crop) took place during the total collapse of law and order in the autumn of 2001, long before the new government of Dr. Hamid Karzai was in place", Mr. Costa said.
He called for greater assistance to the Afghan authorities in carrying out their strong commitment to prevent opium cultivation. Immediately after assuming office, President Karzai issued a decree on 17 January, banning not only cultivation but also the processing, trafficking and abuse of opiates. Last month, his government reiterated that position, reasserting the ban on opium poppy planting in the autumn.
"What is needed in the period ahead is much stronger international support in establishing and developing law enforcement institutions, and providing Afghan farmers with alternative, licit means of livelihood", Mr. Costa said.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reopened its country office in Kabul in February and has appointed Mohammad-Reza Amirkhizi as the country representative. The office has been engaged in a wide range of projects, which include strengthening the Afghan drug control commission, assistance in law enforcement and the criminal justice sectors, and cross-border counter-narcotics cooperation with neighbouring States. The Office is also working on a pilot social compact with farmers in Kandahar and Badakhshan provinces, providing them with small amounts of financial assistance with the understanding that they would grow commercial crops other than opium poppy. Another area of activity covers drug demand reduction. Following a quarter century-long military strife, a large segment of the Afghan population has become addicted to opium and heroin. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is analysing the extent of drug abuse within the country and developing drug abuse prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services.
For further information contact Mohammad Reza Amirkhizi, UN Office on Drugs and Crime Representative, Kabul - Tel: + 43-664-150-7179
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