In Herat province, opium poppy cultivation has grown significantly. The poor and children are paying the price of this, to the benefit of the Taliban and drug traffickers.
Kabul (AsiaNews) – In the Afghan province of Herat, drug traffickers are recruiting more and more children to cultivate and smuggle opium.
According to the Afghanistan Opium Survey released today by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium production in Afghanistan rose by 43 per cent to 4,800 metric tonnes in 2016 compared with 2015 levels.
The area under opium poppy cultivation also increased to 201,000 hectares (ha) in 2016, a rise of 10 per cent compared with 183,000 ha in 2015.
Afghanistan’s booming illicit narcotics industry means that drugs are readily available. The net effect is that around 11 per cent of the population has substance abuse problems.
Sir Majid, the director of Herat’s juvenile detention centre, said that more than 30 of the current inmates had been convicted of drugs smuggling.
Herat police spokesman Abdul Rauf Ahmadi said that they had arrested some 30 children for drug-related offences in the last three months. Some minors who got involved in drug smuggling went on to become addicts themselves, he added.
In an article published in Institute for War & Peace Reporting, Aziz Azara noted that Herat had 70,000 drug addicts, including 5,500 children.
In 2016, provincial authorities eradicated 355 hectares (877 acres) of poppies- This represents a drop of 91 per cent from 2015 when 3,760 hectares were eradicated. In 2016, eradication took place in 7 provinces, compared to 12 provinces in 2015.
Currently, with more than 80,000 hectares, the southern province of Hilmand alone supplies 40 per cent of the country’s opium production and remains the main area for poppy cultivation.
Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of the substance, which is the main ingredient in heroin.
Growing opium is a crime in the country, but it is still a major cash crop for impoverished farming communities.
The Taliban also taxes poppy production in areas it controls, which is a major source of income for its military activities.
For years, Russia and the United States have been fighting drug trafficking in Afghanistan, investing money and resources to limit the devastating effects on the world.