Friday, April 30, 2010

Afghanistan: A Country Driven Mad By War

"It is not just the death and all the damage you can see around the city of Kabul," says Sohaila Alekosai, a 48-year-old counselor, women's rights activist, lawyer, radio personality, and therapist. "It is the damage to the people. And a person who is damaged like this, he causes damage to other people. This is a very big effect of war."

After the rout of the Taliban in 2001, a World Health Organization survey concluded that about five million Afghans, roughly a fifth of the country's population, had been driven mad, or close to it, from a quarter of a century of bloodletting. In 2002, a Centres for Disease Control study painted an even darker picture -- more than a third of the people were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Then a Healthnet International assessment found the country suffering "a huge morbidity of mental disorders," not least of which was clinical depression. Even by 2008, there was still only one small mental hospital in Kabul, a handful of mental-health hospital wards elsewhere in the country, and perhaps only two dozen properly trained mental-health professionals to care for all the sick.

"It is all because of the wars," Alekosai says. "So many people, they have lost their minds."

With nowhere else to turn, the people sometimes medicate themselves -- in a sampling of pharmacies in Kabul and Jalalabad, Healthnet discovered a huge stock of debilitating and highly addictive over-the-counter benzodiazepenes. Sometimes, they resort to opium, folk cures, or pilgrimages to shrines. Across Afghanistan, the mentally ill are often believed to be possessed by jinns. The cure is exorcism. Sufferers are chained to trees for weeks at a time and left and administered a strict diet of bread, pepper, water, and readings from the Koran. But for the women of Kabul, there is also Sohaila Alekosai. . .

The latest in the series. Directly related, in Foreign Policy: Is The U.S. Airlifting Taliban Troops Into Northern Afghanistan? No. But The Question Itself Poses More Questions Than You Might Think.

Directly related, on the collapse of the hollowed-out regime in Kyrgyzstan: The speed with which the Bakiyev administration collapsed is a salutary reminder of the risks of overemphasising Western security concerns in framing policy towards the region.


Blogger Californian said...

They need proper education.Learning English is very important for them as well.

12:55 AM  

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