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Africa Increasingly Being Used in Cocaine Trafficking

Africa is increasingly being used as a conduit to traffic cocaine, with increasing numbers of couriers apprehended and more bulk cocaine seized, according to the International Narcotics Control Board. The Vienna-based group released its 2006 report in Nairobi, where Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA.

The report says the most commonly abused drug in Africa is cannabis. Its cultivation and production are on the rise despite a marked decline in production in Morocco, the world's largest producer of cannabis resin.

In eastern Africa, heroin abuse is starting to become a problem, and people all over the continent are misusing and abusing pharmaceutical preparations containing controlled substances.

But, says board member Carsten Hyttel, regional representative with the U.N. Office for Drugs and Crimes, one of the most worrying drug problems in Africa is cocaine smuggling.

"Africa continues to be exploited by cocaine trafficking organizations for smuggling cocaine from South America to Europe, while western Africa is at the forefront of the cocaine trafficking routes," he said. "When it comes to Africa, I need not remind you that eastern Africa and Kenya are also on the map of the cocaine traffickers."

These and other trends are detailed in the International Narcotics Control Board's 2006 report. It calls for governments to enact legislation to control the manufacturing and sale of medicine and to ensure that narcotic drugs are not illegally manufactured or diverted from legal medicine.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 50 percent of medicine taken in developing countries are counterfeit and can have often-fatal results.

For instance, 2,500 people died in Africa in 1995 as a result of counterfeit vaccines.

The report examines trends in drug production, trafficking, and abuse in the world's major regions.

Central America and the Caribbean is another major cocaine conduit, with 90 percent of the cocaine entering North America each year passing through that region.

Board member Hyttel describes good news from North America.

"Illicit drug use in the U.S. is reported to be declining for the fourth consecutive year," he said. "In fact, the annual prevalence rate for drug abuse is currently 10 to 30 percent lower than 10 years ago."

In South America, there is an overall decrease in the total area under coca bush cultivation.

Iran is reported to have the highest rate of opium abuse in the world. And, says the report, corruption continues to seriously hinder efforts to control illicit opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan.