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Afghanistan’s opium declining but prognosis gloomy

Afghanistan’s opium production declining but prognosis gloomy: UN drug report

Although the area of Afghanistan under opium cultivation dipped 21 per cent in 2005, the drug problem in the country could remain severe because of renewed insecurity, continued corruption and free opium seed distribution by traffickers, according to a United Nations report released today.

Briefing reporters in New York on the Afghan Opium Survey, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, warned that these factors are combining to pose “a risk that opium cultivation may not decline any further in 2006 when we certify it next year, namely for the harvest period that just started.”

He said other obstacles to further progress include farmer dissatisfaction with the level of development assistance and a decreased eradication effort.

According to the survey, 104,000 hectares of land in Afghanistan is under opium cultivation. Provinces varied widely in the change in cultivation over the year, with Kandahar experiencing a major decline – 96 per cent – and some others increasing as much as 350 per cent.

Mr. Costa said the variations could be attributed in part to the levels of corruption prevailing in different areas.

He said that one surprise of this year’s survey was the extent of drug addiction in Afghanistan, which is far greater than had been previously estimated, with about 3.8 per cent of the population – nearly one million people – using some form of drug.

Most use hashish, with a little over 1 per cent using opium or heroin, Mr. Costa said, describing a disturbing trend where Afghan children are being offered opium derivates to relieve pain or even hunger.

Also surprising was the extent of cannabis cultivation. The survey put Afghanistan’s marijuana fields at about 30,000 hectares, making it the second-largest producer of cannabis after Morocco.

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