Children are a symbol of innocence. The eyes of a child are said to be the purest, because they are untainted by the evil in the world. It’s hard to think of those eyes being filled with a deep hunger, a hunger that rips the innocence out of them. The hunger of drug addiction.
For the children of Afghanistan, that hunger is not rare, and it is no secret.
Journalist Ramita Navai takes viewers through Afghanistan, revealing the effect opium has had on children in the nation. According to the United Nations, Afghanistan is the largest supplier of opium in the world, with almost 90% of opium poppy originating from the country. Opium is refined to create heroin, a highly addictive stimulant that has taken over the lives of countless people, not only in Afghanistan, but across the world.
Navai speaks to a young man named Abraham, 15 years old, about his drug use. Abraham explains that he began using heroin after both his parents were killed in war. Other young boys come up to the journalist to tell their stories, all heroin users, and all affected by the war in Afghanistan.
A war torn country, broken families, and a seemingly endless supply of opium all factor into the heroin epidemic, that has even children searching for their next fix. From fifteen years old, to five years old Navai has numerous encounters with children who use heroin, and are addicted to it.
Only one center in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capitol, helps treat child addicts. The center wasn’t even built for this purpose; it was originally supposed to be a center for women. However, as time passed, more and more women began to come in with their children, who had addictions themselves.
The center can only hold 20 children for the first part of treatment, where the children suffer through the pain of withdrawal. The building is filled with toddlers; children, but drug addicts. Navai speaks to a new arrival, a 9-year-old boy, who looks confused and alone has camera’s hone in on his face.
“He doesn’t look happy; he doesn’t look well. You can see it in his eyes,” says Navai.
“I’m here to kick the habit, because I’m on powder (heroin),” says another boy, who is five years old. He began smoking heroin after being given opium to treat a toothache.
Another girl says she became addicted after repeatedly inhaling the smoke her father would exhale after smoking heroin.
“I just want him to get better,” said the girl, speaking about her father’s addiction.
With a surge of children becoming addicts, and limited resources for recovery, it’s painful to think of the future for these children. Some will find help, but many will not. While some countries have sent aid to Afghanistan, there’s no telling whether it will be used to help treat the drug problem that has even children quivering for their next hit.