The Two Faces Of Opium
Every day thousands of people suffer terrible pain simply because they cannot get proper medical treatment.
The World Health Organization estimates that every year over six million cancer and HIV patients go through agony and die slow, lingering deaths. Such suffering and anguish is rare in rich, developed countries.
According to the UN's International Narcotics Control Board - the INCB - there are only about 15 countries, including the USA, the UK, France and Germany, where people have reasonable access to controlled medicines. For the rest, roughly 80 per cent of the world's population, there is little or nothing.
But why? It's not the cost. Morphine and other opiates are cheap and plentiful and they are the most effective way of controlling pain. What prevents their wider use is the fact that the medical establishment in many developing countries are reluctant to prescribe them for fear they will create another generation of drug addicts.
But that is starting to change. The INCB is reassessing the situation and groups like the African Palliative Care Association are campaigning for greater understanding about the power of morphine and opiates to relieve pain giving those who suffer from often terminal conditions greater dignity and a better quality of what life remains to them.
This film follows the case of a young woman in Uganda, Kanyike Olivia, who has eye cancer and is HIV positive. She is unemployed, lives at home with her two sons and gets by on handouts from friends and neighbours. Her husband left her three years ago.
But she does get visits from a community carer, Maria, who has been trained in the basics of palliative home care. Kanyike's situation is far from ideal, but at least she is now getting the right drugs and some emotional support.
To show the other side of the story - how addicts are weaned away from drugs - Survivor's Guide goes to a country with a serious narcotics problem. According to UN figures, 60 per cent of the drugs produced in Afghanistan are smuggled through the mountains of Kyrgyzstan.
This creates a huge problem for the Kyrgyzstan authorities. Many people are involved in the trafficking because it's easy money and worse, one in 50 people become drug users. But they are now pioneering a programme they hope will help. It's a methadone substitution therapy project (MST) and it's being run at the government's National Narcological Centre in the capital, Bishkek. Survior's Guide speaks to the patients, the staff and the Ministry of Health.