Washington: In a far-flung part of northern Afghanistan, there`s a town where kids are fed pure opium.
Aziza feeds her four-year-old son, Omaidullah, a lump of pure opium as his ``breakfast”.`
"If I don`t give him opium, he doesn`t sleep. And he doesn`t let me work," CNN quoted Aziza as saying.
The mother comes from a poor family of carpet weavers in Balkh province. She has no education; no idea of the health risks involved or that opium is addictive.
"We give the children opium whenever they get sick as well," she said.
With no real medical care in these parts and the high cost of medicine, all the families out here know is opium.
Aziza`s elderly mother-in-law, Rozigul, rolls a small ball in her fingers and pops it into her mouth with a small smile before passing a piece over to her sister.
"I had to work and raise the children, so I started using drugs. We are very poor people, so I used opium. We don`t have anything to eat. That is why we have to work and use drugs to keep our kids quiet," she said.
The closest government-run drug rehabilitation centre is a four-hour drive away and has only 20 beds and a handful of staff to deal with the epidemic.
"Opium is nothing new to our villages or districts. It`s an old tradition, something of a religion in some areas," said Mohamed Daoud Rated, coordinator of the centre.
"People use opium as drugs or medicine. If a child cries, they give him opium, if they can’t sleep, they use opium, if an infant coughs, they give them opium," he said.
The centre is running an outreach program to the areas that are most afflicted.