Thursday, October 6

Kabul’s detox ‘prison’



An army of undead queues outside a dining hall. Most have freshly shaven heads 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. Looks that go through you because for them you don’t exist, you’re not here. They move by inertia and are kept on their feet and in line by the shouts and constant blows of the caretakers of the center, who wear leather straps. Many of these caregivers were in the opposite place a few months ago, fresh from the detox center, their eyes and brains charred by the drug. It barely touches half a plate of white rice per person. There’s no more. These are the new five hundred patients that the police have just brought from the streets. This is Camp Phoenix, a former US training camp on the road to Jalalabad, outside Kabul, converted in 2016 into a detoxification 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 also a major exporter of crystal (methamphetamine). The economic and social instability caused by decades of war has been accentuated by the return of the Taliban to power a year ago, which continue with the policy of massive drug addict raids already carried out by the previous government. The Islamists announced a ban on planting opium, a crop that is produced above all in the provinces that they have always controlled in the south of the country, but like many other announcements it has remained only words. In one night, they detain hundreds of people who live in subhuman conditions under the bridges of the capital and on nearby hills and take them to hospitals prepared for detoxification where they should start a 45-day shock treatment. The problem is that there are no funds and once there they cannot be given the necessary medicine, not even enough food. Related News standard Si Some 800 collaborators and relatives are still waiting in Afghanistan to be evacuated Carlota Pérez «I have been hiding from the Taliban for eleven months», one of them tells ABC, who denounces the lack of Spanish help «Most of the patients are between 18 and 35 years old, they bring them straight from the street and here we have neither analgesics, nor opiates like methadone, nor antidepressants, nor sleeping pills, not even antidiarrheals. Doctors and nurses have not received a salary for half a year, international organizations no longer finance projects and any local aid that reaches the center is destined for the sick, not for us, ”explains Dr. Abdul-Rab Kohestani, who has spent six years working in this hospital, since its inauguration. He does not want to compare this stage of the ’emirate’ with that of the previous government in terms of the number of patients, but he does emphasize that “before we had medicines and they paid us on time and now we don’t. If this doesn’t change, I don’t know what could happen because we don’t even have food for so many people anymore.” Consumption has skyrocketed in the country and reports from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) state that “the increase in addiction to narcotics has followed the same hyperbolic pattern of production opium”. Data from the international organization show that in Afghanistan there are more than a million addicts (from 15 to 64 years old), which represents eight percent of the population, a rate that is twice the world average. Long-term Camp Phoenix is ​​divided into blocks. Far from the five hundred new arrivals, the barracks where long-stay patients recover. The glazed looks here are transformed into sad and dull eyes. Hazibula Marouf, 31 years old and father of 3 children, has been hospitalized for a year and is awaiting final discharge. «I am clean, but the problem is that in my family they are afraid of a relapse and that is why they prefer that I continue here. What I want is to go back to work to help my family, I will not fall into drugs again, I promise », he affirms from the room that he shares with forty other colleagues. Most wear tracksuits from European soccer teams, especially Real Madrid and Barcelona, ​​because “it’s a donation from an Afghan association, the problem is that it’s winter clothing and here in summer we suffocate,” laments Hazibula. The cure is possible and Rahmkhuda, 24 years old and father of two children, is the example. Blue eyes, a permanent smile and a folder in his hand, he came out of drugs thanks to the treatment received in this place in 2020 and decided to accept a job as an assistant to the health personnel. He has written down the names and status of each of the long-stay patients and regrets “the lack of medicine because I was able to get out thanks to the treatment and I also regret that doctors and nurses are not paid their salaries because they deserve it, this work It is very hard”. Dr. Kohestani searches inside the closet of his office and finds some boxes of Paracetamol, on another shelf there are bags with serum. Nothing more. “It is a miracle that the center is still operational,” he repeats out loud, but there is no one responsible for the Ministry of Health here to listen to him. The hospital maintains the walls erected by the United States Army and they have added barbed wire so that no one tries to escape from this authentic detoxification prison.


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