Recovering Users Strive To Help Afghans Battling Addiction

By Victoria Kim 03/07/17

The Bridge Hope Health Organization offers counseling and health care to drug users in Afghanistan.

Afghans converging near a bridge.
Photo via Facebook

A group of Afghans in recovery faces a daunting task—reaching Afghanistan’s three million addicts in the world’s number one source of opium and heroin.

The Bridge Hope Health Organization (BHHO) offers health care and counseling to drug users in Afghanistan, many of whom are women and children, according to a report by the Associated Press

BHHO reaches around 15-30 people per day, offering them HIV screening and counseling. 

With at least 40,000 estimated IV drug users in the country, the risk of HIV is high, especially among people who inject drugs. According to the UN, there are around 7,000 Afghans living with HIV.

“My health was really bad when I was an addict, I was hoping to die,” said one volunteer, 54-year-old Raheem Rejaey. “When I became healthy and gave up addiction, I decided to devote my life to serving those people because … I knew there is no one who will care for them.”

Rejaey lived with addiction for 17 years, while homeless and suicidal throughout that time. Now sober for six years, he works with BHHO to reach out to drug users who are living as he once did.

Another volunteer with BHHO, Reza Gul Jan, has also been sober for six years. Though it’s tough to see people struggling, he says, “A sense of humanity drives me to come here to help them.” 

Though they’re doing good work, BHHO has big goals but is operating with very little funding. Their website lists various services they provide to people who use drugs in Afghanistan, such as peer education, health care, overdose management, HIV prevention, and awareness and advocacy. 

A Public Health Ministry official described the prevalence of drug abuse in the country as “a big disaster.” Even though the Afghan government has tried to address the problem—by rounding up people on the streets and bringing them to rehab centers, or spending billions of dollars on anti-drug efforts—officials say drug use in Afghanistan is still growing.

But organizations like BHHO lend a more personal touch to recovery efforts, putting a face to the 10% of Afghanistan’s population of 30 million who are addicted to drugs.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr