The New York Times' LENS blog features a poignant photo essay on opium addiction in Afghanistan by the late A.K. Kimoto. The photo essay is in black & white; dark and brooding as befits such a subject matter. See it...I highly recommend it, along with its accompanying article.
Kimoto was a 32-year-old Japanese photographer based in Bangkok, who died in March while traveling to Australia.
He spent years photographing families in the remote northeastern mountains of Afghanistan, controlled by the Taliban. He roamed remote settlements in Badakhshan, Afghanistan, to find out why so many of the inhabitants (even the young) had become addicted to opium. As Emily Anne Epstein explains in the piece: "The poverty in this region is so harsh that parents blow opium smoke into their children’s noses to soothe the pangs of hunger."
A.K. Kimoto wrote:
“I offer to transport the mother and child to a clinic. One of the elders cuts me off before I can finish my thought. He smiles gently as he tells me that the child would never survive such a journey in the cold rain, and anyway, this way of life and death have been repeated for centuries in these mountains.”Coincidentally, the New York Times reported yesterday that the United States has discovered nearly "$1 trillion" in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, which translates into approximately $35,000 for every inhabitant of the country. Naturally, massive investments will be required to mine these deposits, but in any event there's little chance that the poor of Badakhshan will see their lives improve from this eventual wealth. Cronyism, and venal corruption are endemic to the region...and only those with the power and connections will reap the benefits.