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United Nations’ Wake Up Call: Another alleged chemical attack reported in Syria’s Hama province

Accusations of chemical attacks in Syria by government forces and Islamic State militants are central to the conflict and the UN needs to act fast !

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This photo provided by the Syria Press Center (SPC), an anti-government media group, shows civilians leaving the town of Suran, in Hama province, Sept. 1, 2016. Source: VOA
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Sept, 08, 2016:Fighting between Syrian government army and insurgents in Syria’s central Hama province forced about 100,000 people to leave their homes between August 28 and September 5, the U.N. humanitarian agency said Wednesday.

OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) said figures from a camp coordination group show nearly half of the displaced from Hama arrived in the neighboring rebel-held Idlib province.

Others fled toward government-controlled Hama city, where four mosques were converted into temporary shelters, OCHA said. In rural areas of Hama province dozens of schools were also converted into shelters.

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However, many displaced families are sleeping outdoors in parks in Idlib, OCHA said, due to a shortage of shelter space.

Chlorine attack

Meanwhile, an official in Syria’s rebel-held Aleppo, Mohammed Abu Jaafar, said that at least one person died of heart failure from a suspected chlorine attack reported Tuesday.

FILE - Civilians breathe through an oxygen mask at al-Quds hospital, after a hospital and a civil defence group said a gas, what they believed to be chlorine, was dropped alongside barrel bombs on a neighbourhood of the Syrian city of Aleppo, Syria, early August.
FILE – Civilians breathe through an oxygen mask at al-Quds hospital, after a hospital and a civil defence group said a gas, what they believed to be chlorine, was dropped alongside barrel bombs on a neighbourhood of the Syrian city of Aleppo, Syria, early August. Image Source: VOA

The Syria Civil Defense group said helicopters dropped several barrels containing chlorine on the opposition-held al-Sukkari neighborhood.

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The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported a barrel bomb attack in the area, but could not confirm whether chlorine was involved.

Accusations of chemical attacks have been a fixture of the Syrian conflict with both the government and rebels blaming the other during the past five years.

International inspectors issued a report last month saying government forces and Islamic State militants had each carried out chemical attacks. United Nations experts said Tuesday more investigations are ongoing into alleged chemical attacks earlier this year, including in Aleppo. (VOA)

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Opium Cultivation Goes Down by 20% in Afghanistan: UN

It noted that opium poppy weeding and harvesting provided for the equivalent of up to 354,000 full-time jobs to rural areas in 2017.

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oPIUM CULTIVATION
In this April 11, 2016, photo, farmers harvest raw opium at a poppy field in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. VOA

A new United Nations survey finds that opium cultivation in Afghanistan has decreased by 20 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, citing a severe drought and falling prices of dry opium at the national level.

The total opium-poppy cultivation area decreased to 263,000 hectares, from 328,000 hectares estimated in 2017, but it was
still the second highest measurement for Afghanistan since the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) began monitoring in 1994.

The potential opium production decreased by 29 percent to 6,400 tons from an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017.

The UNODC country representative, Mark Colhoun, while explaining factors behind the reduction told reporters in Kabul the farm-gate prices of dry opium at the harvest time fell to $94 per kilogram, the lowest since 2004.

Afghanistan, Opium cultivation
FILE – Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in a poppy field in Khogyani district of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, May 10, 2013. VOA

The decreases, in particular in the northern and western Afghan regions, were mainly attributed to the severe drought that hit the country during the course of the last year, he added.

“Despite these decreases, the overall area under opium-poppy cultivation is still the highest ever recorded. This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond. It is also a threat to all countries to and through which these drugs are trafficked as well as to Afghanistan itself,” said Colhoun.

He warned that more high-quality low-cost heroin will reach consumer markets across the world, with increased consumption and related harms as a further likely consequence.

“The significant levels of opium-poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates will further fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” he said.

 

Afghanistan, Opium cultivation
Raw opium from a poppy head is seen at a poppy farmer’s field on the outskirts of Jalalabad, afghanistan. VOA

A new United Nations survey finds that opium cultivation in Afghanistan has decreased by 20 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, citing a severe drought and falling prices of dry opium at the national level.

The total opium cultivation area decreased to 263,000 hectares, from 328,000 hectares estimated in 2017, but it was
still the second highest measurement for Afghanistan since the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) began monitoring in 1994.

The potential opium production decreased by 29 percent to 6,400 tons from an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017.

The UNODC country representative, Mark Colhoun, while explaining factors behind the reduction told reporters in Kabul the farm-gate prices of dry opium at the harvest time fell to $94 per kilogram, the lowest since 2004.

The decreases, in particular in the northern and western Afghan regions, were mainly attributed to the severe drought that hit the country during the course of the last year, he added.

Opium cultivation
Afghan security personnel watch as flames and smoke rise after opium and narcotics are burned in a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

“Despite these decreases, the overall area under opium-poppy cultivation is still the highest ever recorded. This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond. It is also a threat to all countries to and through which these drugs are trafficked as well as to Afghanistan itself,” said Colhoun.

He warned that more high-quality low-cost heroin will reach consumer markets across the world, with increased consumption and related harms as a further likely consequence.

“The significant levels of opium-poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates will further fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” he said.

Colhoun noted that while there is no single explanation for the continuing high levels of opium-poppy cultivation, rule of law-related challenges such as political instability, lack of government control and security as well as corruption have been found to be among the main drivers of illicit cultivation.

The UNODC survey estimated that the total farm-gate value of opium production decreased by 56 percent to $604 million, which is equivalent to three percent of Afghanistan’s GDP, from $1.4 billion in 2017. The lowest prices strongly undermined the income earned from opium cultivation by farmers.

 Afghan security personnel watch as flames and smoke rise after opium and narcotics are burned in a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan
Field Of poppies, Opium. Pixabay

The study finds that 24 out of the 34 Afghan provinces grew the opium-poppy in 2018, the same number as in the previous year.

The survey found that 69 percent of the opium poppy cultivation took place in southern Afghanistan and the largest province of Helmand remained the leading opium-poppy cultivating region followed by neighboring Kandahar and Uruzgan and Nangarhar in the east.

It noted that poppy opium cultivation weeding and harvesting provided for the equivalent of up to 354,000 full-time jobs to rural areas in 2017.

A U.S. government agency, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), has noted in its latest report that as of September 30, Washington’s counternarcotics-related appropriations for the country had reached almost $9 billion.

Also Read: The Elections in Afghanistan

“Despite the importance of the threat narcotics pose to reconstruction and despite massive expenditures for programs including poppy-crop eradication, drug seizures and interdictions, alternative-livelihood support, aviation support, and incentives for provincial governments, the drug trade remains entrenched in Afghanistan, and is growing,” said Sigar, which monitors U.S. civilian and military spendings in the country. (VOA)