Social Issues

Afghan clinic provides ray of hope for drug-addicted women shunned by society

Kabul, Nov 30 (EFE).- An Afghan clinic has been helping the drug-addicted women of the conservative country, where these women are ostracized despite often being forced into addiction by their husbands or due to poverty, in the backdrop of funding drying up for drug rehabilitation programs over the past year.

The majority of Afghanistan’s drug addiction centers have been shut down as the country struggles with a severe economic crisis following the Taliban’s ascent to power, aggravating an issue that affects nearly four million people.

The few Afghan clinics that continue to remain open have been struggling to operate due to lack of funds.

“Our services decreased, we have lost (supplies from) the food contractor, the fresh fruit contractor, and heating materials for winter,” Shaista Hakeem, director of the de-addiction center that exclusively treats women, told EFE.

The system began to collapse after the Taliban seizing power in August 2021 and the subsequent withdrawal of international organizations and donors that provided the main financial backing to most Afghan institutions, including drug rehabilitation centers.

Now the centers fully depend on aid offered by the Taliban health ministry, which is quite limited according to Hakeem.

Reports estimate that between 3.5 and 4 million Afghans are addicted to drugs.

The statistics include women and children, who are the biggest beneficiaries of Hakeem’s clinic, which was founded in 2017 and can treat up to 150 people at a time, although currently only half of the spots are filled despite the care being provided completely free.

For 45 days, “the addicts admitted here receive different medical, psychological, and physical consultations (…). Every addict has a psychologist consultant to counsel them for not using the drug currently and in future,” Hakeem told EFE.

In the traditional Afghan society, even women who smoke are looked down upon, and them being addicted to any kind of drug is considered a disgrace for the family, due to which the center assumes a key role in their reintegration into society.

Hakeem lists “poverty, unemployment, availability of drugs in the markets, psychological problems, living with addict family members and using drugs as medicine” as the main causes of addiction.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest exporter of opium, fulfilling 80 percent of the global demand.

Opium cultivation rose to 233,000 hectares in 2022 and is likely to result in the production of up to 380 tons of high-purity heroin – the drug that results in the highest number of deaths worldwide – this year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report this month.

Unprocessed opium is widely available in Afghanistan at a relatively cheap price.

Hakeem said that not all her patients begin drug consumption voluntarily, as in some cases their husbands start giving them drugs to control their lives.

This was the case with Masooda (name changed), one of the women currently admitted at the center, who blamed her consumption on her ex-husband, who was an addict himself.

“I wanted to get a divorce but my husband beat me and forced me to consume drugs. When I got addicted, my in-laws started beating me as well. I told them it was their son’s fault, but I got separated from them, including my husband. Now I live with my children,” she told EFE.

Another addict Shakila (name changed) recalled how her addiction began after she took opium instead of medicines once after falling sick, and progressively become dependent on the drug.

As she tries to overcome 13 years of addiction, Shakila is not sure where she will go along with her three daughters after rehabilitation.

“I request all women and men to not use any type of drugs, intentionally and unintentionally, as after the addiction they will lose everything: family, respect, and dignity” she said.

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