UNODC support for drug treatment services in Afghanistan: Waheeda’s story

Customers at the Youth Health & Development Organization.

The theme of World Drug Day 2022 is ‘health and humanitarian crises’. In the lead up to the Day, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is highlighting its work on drug prevention and treatment around the world, particularly in crisis situations.  

Kandahar (Afghanistan), 22 June 2022 – Afghanistan’s role as the world’s largest opium producer is well-known - in 2020, the country accounted for 85% of global opium production and was the supplier for 80% of all opiate users worldwide. However, opiate use has also posed a huge challenge within Afghanistan itself, where drug treatment options remain limited. The 2015 Afghanistan National Drug Use Survey found that 2.5-2.9 million people (11 per cent of the population) in the country, including women and children, had tested positive for narcotic drugs like opiates.  

In Kandahar province, UNODC provides financial, capacity building and technical support to the local Youth Health & Development Organization (YHDO) to manage a drop-in center providing drug use prevention activities and psychosocial support. The center also provides essential health care (wound & abscess management) and testing for HIV and Hepatitis B and C. In the coming months, these activities will be scaled up and extended in additional provinces.

This is the story of Waheeda, a woman who visits the drop-in center for support for her drug use problem.  

“My name is Waheeda, I am 42 years old, and I live in Kandahar, a city in the South of Afghanistan.

I have four children (one son and three daughters).  

Years ago, my husband went to Iran to seek employment and started to use drugs there.  When he came back to Afghanistan, he continued to use drugs. He smoked inside the house. We have only one room, where we are all living together. I used to beg him to quit using drugs. Gradually, I was feeling body pain and having problems sleeping. Once he gave me a small amount of opium, saying it would make me feel better. Then I started to eat opium every day and later started smoking heroin. I have used drugs for almost six years now.   

I was smoking heroin while I was pregnant. When my daughter was born, she was crying all the time, she was not eating well. I noticed that when her father was using drugs in the same room, she felt better, then I realized that my daughter was also addicted to drugs. I was very sad. We were in a very difficult situation at that time, facing economic problems.  

One day, the YHDO team visited me and invited me to their center. I came and registered myself and my children here. I visit the center up to three times each week. I receive medicines and social support, such as basic food and hygiene products.  The center has brought positive changes in my life; we are feeling better now. With the support of the team, I am now considering engaging in the treatment process. I am also able to help others by referring other women drug users to this center, so that they can benefit from the same support.”

Further information

The UNODC Country Office for Afghanistan (COAFG) continues its support to strengthen drug prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, and harm-reduction programs based on scientific evidence, human rights and gender considerations within the framework of Sustainable Trust Fund for Afghanistan (STFA).