UN survey finds opium production on the rise in Afghanistan

The survey found the area under opium poppy cultivation has jumped by 8 per cent over the last year, to 80,000 hectares from 74,000 hectares. Now there is opium cultivation in 28 of Afghanistan’s 32 provinces, up from 18 in 1999.Production has also increased, rising by 6 per cent to 3,600 tons from 3,400 tons, and about 1.7 million people – or 7 per cent of Afghanistan’s population – are involved in the industry.The annual survey, which took in fieldwork and analysis of satellite images, was conducted by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The Office said the results confirm that Afghanistan is responsible for about three-quarters of the world’s output of opium.Speaking at a press briefing in Moscow on the launch of the report, UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa issued a dire warning about the situation.”The country is clearly at a crossroads: either major surgical drug-control measures are taken now, or the drug cancer in Afghanistan will keep spreading, metastasise into corruption, violence and terrorism,” he said.Mr. Costa praised anti-drug efforts by the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, including a ban on opium cultivation and trafficking, and the setting up of a counter-narcotic directorate.But he warned that drug cartels threaten to undermine President Karzai’s efforts to promote democracy and the rule of law.UNODC says it estimates that total income from the farming and trafficking of opium this year may equal about half of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product.The value of the opium harvest declined this year to $1.02 billion, down from $1.2 billion, but that was due to a sharp drop in the price of fresh opium to $283 per kilogram this year, down from $350 per kilogram, because of the increased amount of opium flooding the market.UNODC says opium production has been a serious problem in Afghanistan since the late 1990s, when the Taliban controlled Afghanistan. read more

Brock student wins provincial contest for Cope Care Connect initiative

Kaitlyn Kerridge receiving her award at today’s event at CAMH in Toronto.A third-year Brock Health Sciences student, Kaitlyn Kerridge, has taken first prize in a province-wide competition that challenged students to use social media to help boost mental health at university campuses across Ontario.Her winning entry in the Mental Health 2.0 student social media contest stemmed from a class project in which students developed a comprehensive social marketing campaign called Cope Care Connect.Kerridge’s focus on using Facebook for sharing inspirational quotes, information on mental health, videos and self-help materials for skill-building, and ‘selfies’ of healthy ways to cope, care and connect, was recognized as an ideal way to encourage positive mental health among all students on campus.She was recognized with a $1,500 prize at an event today at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.“We’re happy to see the hard work undertaken by these students to help inspire their fellow classmates has been recognized,” says Kim Meade, Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, Student Services at Brock. “We’re committed to fostering a healthy campus for our students and student-driven initiatives like this are at the core of that commitment. Congratulations to Kaitlyn and her team.”The Mental Health 2.0 challenge was co-ordinated by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) with funding support from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. Winners were selected from a list of 10 finalists by a panel of experts in accessibility, mental health and social media.“Students’ mental health remains a top priority for Ontario’s universities and Mental Health 2.0 is just one way universities are addressing it,” says Bonnie M. Patterson, COU’s President and CEO. “The knowledge gained around mental health will help students act as more informed and compassionate members of their communities.”Cope Care Connect, which launched in February 2014, was a month-long online and face-to-face campaign at Brock targeted at first-year students.Using info tables, a website, YouTube and Facebook pages, the initiative encouraged students to share their experiences – good and bad – and learn effective ways to cope with the demands they face. It also featured student contests aimed at inspiring random acts of kindness to help boost the spirits of others at the University.Cope Care Connect is a partnership with Student Health Services and is supported by the Student Life fee. read more