The Taliban’s massive raids of drug addicts target the sick in centers where there is no medicine for treatment or food
An army of undead lines up in front of a dining hall. Most have a freshly shaved head and some are bare-chested. starving. They look at you, but they don’t see you. Glassy eyes that directly show the fire of hell. Appearance that goes through you, because to them you do not exist, you are not there. They move slowly and are kept afloat by the screams and constant blows of the caretakers of the center, who wear leather thongs. Many of these caregivers were in the opposite spot just a few months ago, fresh from the rehab center, their eyes and brains burned by the drug. It barely touches half a plate of white rice per person. There is no more. These are the new 500 patients that the police just took off the street. This is Camp Phoenix, a former American training camp on the road to Jalalabad, outside Kabul, converted in 2016 into a detox center, “hell on earth”, according to one of the patients.
Drug addiction has long been a problem in Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of opium and heroin and now a major exporter of crystal (methamphetamine). The economic and social instability resulting from decades of war has been exacerbated by the return of the Taliban to power a year ago, which continues in the policy of mass drug raids already carried out by the previous government. The Islamists announced a ban on the planting of opium, a crop mainly produced in the provinces they have always controlled in the south of the country, but like many other announcements, it was just words.
In one night, they arrest hundreds of people living in inhumane conditions under the bridges of the capital and on nearby hills and take them to hospitals prepared for detoxification, where they are supposed to start a 45-day shock treatment. The problem is that there is no money and once they are there they cannot get the necessary medicine, not even enough food.
“Most of the patients are between the ages of 18 and 35, they are taken straight off the street and here we have no painkillers, or opiates like methadone, or antidepressants, or sleeping pills, not even antidiarrhoeal drugs. Doctors and nurses have not received a salary for half a year, international organizations no longer fund projects and all the local aid that reaches the center is for the sick, not for us,” explains Dr. Abdul-Rab Kohestani, who spent six years working at this hospital since it opened. He does not want to compare this stage of the emirate with that of the previous government in terms of patient numbers, but he does emphasize that “we used to have medicines and they paid us on time and now we don’t. If this doesn’t change I don’t know what will happen because we don’t even have food for so many people anymore.”
Consumption in the country has soared and reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) state that “the rise in narcotic addiction has followed the same hyperbolic pattern of opium production”. Data from the international organization shows that there are more than one million addicts (aged 15 to 64 years old) in Afghanistan, representing 8% of the population, a percentage that is twice the global average.
Camp Phoenix is divided into blocks. Far from the five hundred newcomers, the barracks where the long-term sick recover. The glassy looks here are transformed into sad and dull eyes. Hazibula Marouf, 31 and father of 3 children, has been in hospital for a year and is awaiting final discharge. “I’m clean, but the problem is that in my family they are afraid of a relapse and that’s why they prefer that I continue here. What I want is to go back to work to help my family, I will I promise not to relapse into drugs,” he says from the room he shares with forty other colleagues. Most of them wear tracksuits from European football teams, especially Real Madrid and Barcelona, because “it’s a donation from an Afghan association, the problem is it’s winter clothes and here in the summer we suffocate,” Hazibula laments.
The cure is possible and Rahmkhuda, 24 years old and father of two, is the example. Blue eyes, a permanent smile and a folder in his hand, he got rid of the drugs thanks to the treatment he received in this place in 2020 and decided to accept a job as an assistant to the health personnel. It has written down the names and status of each of the long-stay patients and I regret the “lack of medicine because I was able to get out thanks to the treatment and I also regret that doctors and nurses don’t get their salary because they deserve it, this job is very difficult”.
dr. Kohestani searches the cupboard of his office and finds some boxes of Paracetamol, on another shelf are bags of serum. Nothing anymore. “It is a miracle that the center is still operational,” he repeats aloud, but there is no one here in charge of the Ministry of Health to listen to him. The hospital maintains the walls built by the US military and they have added barbed wire so that no one tries to escape from this authentic detox prison.
Source: La Verdad
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