Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Severe Cold and the Most Vulnerable

As the intensity of the cold weather has increased in different parts of the country, people are being influenced in different ways. Those who are poor and do not have the facilities of life are the most vulnerable. They do not have proper clothing, blankets to cover themselves and fuel to burn. Those who can arrange for some wood for themselves are able to resist against the extreme cold weather to a certain extent; otherwise, they have to undergo the consequences. In the process of this struggle, mostly the weather wins and many of the people get sick; few among them even die.
The situation is worse when there are people who have to fight severe cold without shelter. There are certain places in the country where the people do not have proper shelters and have to take refuge in caves, under the bridges or even in open air. There are many families in cold areas such as Bamyan who do not have any other shelter and are found in the caves on the historic mountain that contains Buddha’s statue. Their condition is pathetic during the cold weather in Bamyan which is among the severest in the country. Most of them do not have proper nutrition and reliable sources of making themselves warm.
Then, there are certain other groups of people who are also among the most vulnerable to be influenced by the weather; they are the drug addicts. Afghanistan is one of the countries that have been highly influenced by drug addiction. Millions are caught in this quagmire and more tragic is the fact that there are many women and even children among them. Afghanistan is among the top producers of poppy; therefore, the influence over its own people is natural.
Among these drug addicts the ones that do not have shelter are the most defenseless. They have to live and sleep under the open sky or under different bridges. The capital Kabul in this regard showcases many incidences of the fact. There are many drug addicts in the city who live under the open sky or infamous bridges. Pul-e-Sokhtha Bridge in PD 6 is one of the most dominant examples. Hundreds of addicts live under the bridge and their number seems to be increasing with each passing day. Now, there are some families as well among them, who can be seen with their children. There is a very tragic atmosphere both under the bridge and around it. The addicts are suffering from two miseries at the same time – addiction and the wrath of the weather.  
Recently, a news report revealed that on average two to four addicts die each day due to the severe cold currently gripping the capital. The addicts say that they do not have blankets to cover themselves and they live in a very bad condition. It has been observed that many of these addicts ultimately die but during the recent cold weather the number of deaths has increased. Unfortunately, there is no response from city administration to control the situation.
The rise in the number of addicted under the bridge has also influenced the atmosphere of the neighborhood and its security as well. In many cases, the addicts finding no other way, decide to steal things from the houses around the bridge so that they are able to satiate their addiction and manage covering for themselves.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) says that it is trying to address the problem; however, it is facing the budget constraints. Head of drug reduction department of MoPH said in a recent statement, “The budget that we have for treatment of addicts is not much and has not been approved yet. If the budget does not increase, in the next year we will face many problems. We will transfer this week a number of addicts from Pul-e-Sukhta to reduce the number of people dying every day.”
The government has, as a matter of fact, failed to respond to the situation properly. It has always resided to the tackle the problem on temporary basis and mostly displaced the addicts from the area as a response, which has only resulted further disturbance around the neighborhood. The preventive measures to stop the use of drugs should be two-fold. First, the measures must be carried out to discourage its spread and use; means the objective should be to stop producing new addicts. Strict legal measures must be carried out to discourage the smuggling of drugs and its business. The second phase of the preventive campaign should involve the treatment of the addicts and availability of pleasant environment to them so that they should avoid using drugs and return to positive living. The suggested measures can really play a role in discouraging the use of drugs; nevertheless, they are short-term. For a considerable reduction in the use of this menace, it is vital that better living conditions must be provided to the people.
Better living conditions are also vital for providing people the capability to fight against severe cold weather. If the people have proper shelter, clothing, fuel and nutrition they will be able to fight against the wrath of the weather; otherwise, they will succumb to death.