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UN Warns Alarming Level Of Drug-Related Violence In Central America

Escalating violence involving drug trafficking organizations in Central America has reached "alarming and unprecedented levels," making it one of the most violent areas in the world, the United Nations anti-narcotics panel stressed in its annual report published on Tuesday.

"Drug trafficking organizations have increased their operations in the region, posing a serious threat to the security of the region," says the report produced by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). It identified Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua as key transit countries for smuggling drugs primarily destined for the United States.

According to INCB, the spurt in drug-related violence comes as many Mexican drug cartels - under pressure from the Mexican authorities - have moved their operations south of the border.

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Jamaica now have the world's highest homicide rates as a result of drug-related activities, and the proliferation of street gangs and easy availability of firearms has led to an increase in crime rates.

North America remains the world's largest drug market, followed by Europe, with more than 45,000 people in the region dying of drug-related causes every year, constituting the highest annual drug-related mortality rate in the world.

INCB also highlighted the increased flow of heroin into Africa causing a surge in drug abuse throughout the region, particularly in East and Southern Africa. Last year, record seizures of heroin were carried out in Kenya and Tanzania, and the smuggling of other drugs such as cocaine and cannabis continue to pose a threat to the region, with INCB warning that most countries still lack appropriate systems to monitor and combat drug abuse.

The report also emphasizes the abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter pharmaceutical preparations in South Asia, stressing that many of these are being sold through illegal Internet pharmacies which target a young audience. It also warns that in East and South-East Asia as well as South Asia, the use of amphetamines is increasing and is contributing to a higher rate of HIV and hepatitis C infections.

In its report, INCB provides recommendations to address drug-related violence which include the implementation of programs on drug abuse prevention and treatment and rehabilitation services, as well as increasing the educational, employment and recreational opportunities available to marginalized communities.

by RTT Staff Writer

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