East Africa is becoming a major transit point for heroin from Afghanistan, especially for shipments to Europe.
Most of it still takes an established path known as the “Balkan route” through Iran and southeast Europe, Reuters reports. Recent seizures along the Kenyan and Tanzanian coastlines, however, point to a “southern route.”
Afghanistan is the source of 80% of the world’s illicit opium products, according to The United Nations’ 2014 World Drug Report.
In November, the UN reported that Afghan opium cultivation had increased by 7% from 2013 to 2014 and production increased as much as 17% over the same period. Reuters notes that authorities “are worried that a record opium harvest in Afghanistan will flood global heroin markets this year.”
The UN notes a decline in opiate flow along the Balkan Route — but demand hasn’t dropped as quickly, allowing for the emergence of other paths.
Between 2002 and 2011, Africa was sporadically identified as an origin for heroin reaching Europe. In 2012, however, East Africa became a prominent spot, according to the UN.
The US Drug and Enforcement Agency has spent years chasing after one organisation, known as “Akasha,” responsible for the production and distribution of huge amounts of narcotics in Africa, according to Reuters.
Increased drug trafficking could destabilize the already volatile region, Western officials say, fearing a repeat of what happened in Guinea-Bissau, Africa’s first “narco state.”
Adding to the global nature of the problem, heroin overdoes deaths in the US nearly tripled from 2010 to 2013.