Al Jazeera's 101 East correspondent Steve Chao takes viewers to Afghanistan to investigate the country's role in the global drug industry, revealing the devastating impact it has had on Afghan citizens in particular.
Studies estimate there are some 2.9 million heroin users in Afghanistan, making it the highest per capita in the world, which makes sense considering Afghan poppy accounts for 90 percent of the world's heroin. Chao first takes viewers to the southern part of the country, which he describes as "Ground Zero" in the global war on drugs.
An entire community of drug addicts lives under a bridge in Kabul. He speaks to some of these individuals, bringing light to their situation and humanizing the people Westerners and others with First World privilege tend to look down on. One interview subject explain that, despite his general intelligence and an ability to speak four languages, an inability to find work has led him to this life of drug use and homelessness. According to him, this is the only place he is welcome.
One particularly brave woman is committed to working with this population to convince them to work through their addictions and rebuild their lives without the influence of the heroin industry. Though her work is admirable and she has the respect of many of the addicts she's attempting to help, they voice their concern that the drug dealers will someday have her killed for interfering.
Travelling next to an area known as the "badlands," Chao speaks to a poppy farmer to better understand why he would provide this crop to the Taliban and drug cartels. Citing a lack of government support, the farmer explains that while he would prefer to grow other crops, this is the only real way to maintain a livelihood by farming. Chao is later granted access to a secret government facility, where high level drug traffickers are meant to face legal consequences; however, those responsible for meting out justice are often intimidated and threatened by drug lords, making it virtually impossible to do their jobs effectively.
Afghanistan's Billion Dollar Drug War offers a stark look at the global drug trade and how the people of Afghanistan unwillingly perpetuate it while suffering the ongoing consequences of poverty and addiction.