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Drugs

UN agency worried about surge in Afghan opium production

The latest report by the United Nations' drug-fighting agency has indicated there's been a considerable rise in opium production in Afghanistan again. It said the drastic increase represented a serious setback.

Afghanistan increased its area under opium-poppy cultivation by 36 percent last year to 209,000 hectares (516,000 acres), up from 154,000 hectares a year earlier, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a global drug use report Thursday.

It noted that with a crop yield of some 5,500 tons (6,100 US tons), Afghanistan accounted for some 80 percent of global opium production.

The UNODC also highlighted Myanmar, where the area under opium poppy cultivation covered 57,800 hectares in 2013, continuing a rapid surge that started back in 2006.

Taking a huge toll

The Vienna-based agency estimated that up to 324 million people used an illicit drug at least once in 2012, marking only a small change from the previous year.

Afghan opium cultivation at new record

It also stated that the number of drug-related deaths around the world was estimated between 95,500 and 225,900 people, depending on independent sources available to the body. The report maintained the total number of casualties was most likely lower than in previous years due to marked decreases in some Asian countries.

Launching the report in Vienna on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, UNOCD Executive Director Yury Fedotov appealed for a stronger focus on the health and human rights of drug users.

"There remain serious gaps in service provision, with only one in six drug users globally having access to or receiving drug dependence treatment," Fedotov said.

hg/sgb (AP, UNOCD)

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