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Afghanistan steps up anti-drug campaign in Kabul

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Security members round up drug addicts during an anti-drug campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Oct. 14. 2018. An estimated 2.9 million to 3.5 million drug addicts including 1.1 million women are living in Afghanistan. Xinhua

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan has stepped up its anti-drug campaign in the capital by rounding up drug addicts since Oct. 14.

Afghan police and health workers have been conducting extensive searches in suspected drug hideouts, according to Ministry of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan.

They fan out twice a year across Kabul and under the city’s bridges, to round up drug addicts and try and get them help.

The young men, most of who survive on the street by feeding off garbage and begging or stealing money for their next fix, are then taken to a rehab center where they spend the next three months trying to kick the habit before they are reunited with their families.

An estimated 2.9 million to 3.5 million drug addicts including 1.1 million women are living in Afghanistan.

Long known as the world’s top producer and exporter of opium, Afghanistan also now ranks among the world’s most addicted nations.

There are also believed to be at least 40,000 intravenous drug users in Afghanistan, making them vulnerable to HIV and other infections. The UN estimates that around 7,000 people in the country live with HIV and believes the epidemic is mainly centered among those injecting drugs.

At the rehab center, along with medical treatment, the young men will get some skill training, mostly as carpenters or car mechanics.

As the Afghan government has taken over much of the country’s day-to-day military and law enforcement operations, including counter narcotics efforts, the acres of crops authorities destroyed have fallen drastically.

In 2014, as large numbers of foreign troops withdrew from Afghanistan, the number of hectares of poppy eradicated dropped by 63 percent to less than 6,700 acres, the third consecutive year it decreased, according to United Nations figures. To put that number in perspective, it coincided with a record 553,500 acres harvested.

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