60 to 100 thousand Blatant Addicts in the Country; Addicts More Vulnerable to Coronavirus Infection
The Headquarters for the Fight Against Narcotic Drugs’ Secretary General dismissed certain statements to the effect that addicts do not get infected with the Corona virus, and said: “On the contrary, addicts are more prone because they have underlying conditions and lung problems and they are therefore more vulnerable. And the disease will be more severe in their case if they get infected.”
According to a report by ISNA, Commander Eskandar Momeni dismissed certain statements to the effect that addicts don’t get infected with the coronavirus and said: “That is utterly and completely false. These rumors that addicts don’t get Corona started spreading in the early days of the pandemic before scientists and researchers could know what was going on. The matter was studied. Drug traffickers and major international drug rings were behind these rumors. Every once in a while, they use these opportunities [to expand their business], and they immediately started this rumor in the early days of the pandemic which, unfortunately, proved to be effective in certain parts of the world, but it is completely false. On the contrary, addicts are more prone because they have underlying conditions and lung problems and they are therefore more vulnerable. And the disease will be more severe in their case if they get infected.”
In response to a question to the effect that “you cooperated with the Welfare Organization and a special sum of money was allocated for blatant addicts in the times of Corona”, he stated: “Yes. There was a very serious concern: Addicts who are blatant (willful and conspicuous) and live on the streets could be carriers of the virus, moving it around and spreading it. In early Esfand (late February 2020; Esfand is the last month of the Iranian calendar year) around 100 billion Rials were allocated to the Ministry of Health and the Welfare Organization for purposes of prevention, monitoring, and control of addicts in [camps], especially blatant addicts in the streets, in spite of the fact that such sum had not been anticipated in the budget and it was the end of the year. But we saved funds from various other departments and made some changes [to existing programs in order to allocate these funds]. So in effect, the reason there are few infected addicts living in the streets is the aforementioned decision made by Islamic Republic of Iran and the very effective actions taken by various departments, the police force, the Welfare Organization, and the Ministry of Health, and it has nothing to do with that rumor.”
In response to the question, “Was that sum intended for addicts who are kept in camps or was it also for those who have no residence and sleep on the street and are blatant?” he stated: “This was the right decision for camps, where there was a lower chance and a lower risk (because it was ordered not to take on new addicts) [of infection]; this was a decision made by the Ministry of Health which we supported because otherwise it could have caused a catastrophe. This action was meant for blatant and street addicts who slept under bridges and in the streets and other places and moved about and could spread the virus.”
Regarding the number of blatant addicts, Momeni said: “We have a maximum of between 60 to 100 thousand blatant addicts, 15 thousand of whom live in Tehran. Mashhad, Esfahan, etc., rank next. It’s basically according to [a city or region’s] population. Of course there are migrants among them; for instance, they go to warmer climates in the cold season, that is, they migrate to the south. And there are those provinces where they are rarely seen; like the city of Tabriz, which, in our opinion, is truly exemplary. Naturally, the government alone cannot take care of this harm. Many holding centers (camps) from zero to one hundred people, are run by NGOs. This is more obvious in Tabriz; in other words, charitable individuals and NGOs assist and lay the groundwork for employment, because the preliminary treatment and detoxification is only the beginning. After that, these people must learn a job and a trade, and subsequently be productive and actually manufacture something, and in this way, they develop self-confidence. These products are then sold and they reap a portion of the income, and when they get out, they feel [like they have accomplished something] and they have the self-confidence to return to society, and society accepts them as well.”
As reported by the Headquarters for the Fight Against Narcotic Drugs’ Public Relations Office, he then added: “For example, businesses and charitable individuals order certain products to be made by these addicts; containers that are used in the production of honey, for instance. Many businessmen order shoes; some household furniture and sports equipment used in parks are manufactured there, and they are even exported. Of course, this has started in the city of Qom as well: In centers where addicts are kept, after breakfast, all rest places are shut down and everyone goes to work. This [concept] is expanding right now and we must reach a point where we can lay the groundwork for the participation of the general population.”
The Headquarters for the Fight Against Narcotic Drugs published the above with ISNA designated as a source.