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On Qat

 

camel-chewing

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Introduction

qat-bundels Perhaps, after you have finished reading this document (if you have finished it), you will wonder what we are:
a tour operator trying to make a living by attracting as many customers as possible, telling them about all the good things that Yemen has to offer, or an institute doing some quasi scientific research.
Well, of course we are a tour operator: not more, nor less (we hope). But giving information on the use of qat in a country like Yemen is something special. It really deserves a special treatment and the reason for that will maybe become clear to you if you continue reading.
General information on qat (or khat, chat, etc. as it is sometimes spelled), how is it produced, harvested and used, the effects on body and in particular the mind, how is it looked upon and - specifically - treated in other regions of this world, is available on the internet, starting for example with Wikipedia on qat

In this document we'll concentrate on the effects, both on the body and mind and the influence it has on Yemen society.

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Effects on body and mind

Wikipedia and its links to the subject have lots to say about these effects, but you will soon discover that there is no real consensus about the effects on health, its addictiveness and whether or not it should be banned. It is said for example (quote):

In 1980 the World Health Organization classified qat as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence. The plant has been targeted by anti-drug organizations like the DEA (the US Drug Enforcement Agency). It is a controlled/illegal substance in many countries, but is legal for sale and production in many others.
(unquote)

So what to make of this? Let's have a look at the graph below:

drug-statistics

As you can see qat is by far the "healthiest" drug among those listed in the picture with a low risk of addiction. Compared to for example tobacco and alcohol that is used all over the world, that is available on nearly every street corner and is legally accepted with hardly any restrictions on the trade, then why the fuss about this relatively harmless drug with the name "qat"? These people at the DEA, what in heavens name are they thinking? They can't be that stupid, hypocritical or both.

It appears that qat in itself is quite harmless compared to the many other drugs that people use, either on a doctors prescription (e.g. benzodiazepines) or for other more dubious reasons. So wouldn't it be a real blessing to the richer countries if instead of the far more dangerous stimulants (alcohol, cocaine, heroine, etc.), a drug like qat would be produced, traded and used?
It's not simple as that of course. Besides, we are talking about Yemen here and in that country it is not a blessing but becoming a serious problem.

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Qat and its negative effects in Yemen

So now we are getting to the negative side effects of qat on the country as a whole:
In December 2008 the Yemen Times published an article about a study carried out in 2006 by the World Bank under the supervision of Mrs. Viloria-Williams. Below are her main findings and conclusions.

 

  • 72% of men and 33% of women chew Qat for an average of 6 hours per day.
  • Qat absorbs 10% of the average household income and over 28% for low income groups. Families with a monthly income of less than 10000 Rials (about $50) barely have money to feed their children, get them into schools and dress them, and yet spend from 300-1000 Rials daily on qat!
  • In many families children as young as seven start chewing because of parental influence, especially because mothers, who are usually uneducated, think of Qat as a means to bind their children to the family.
  • High blood pressure, tooth decay, constipation, hemorrhoids, hernias, paranoia and depression are among the direct health hazards posed by regular Qat chewing. And this is not only caused by the qat plant itself, but also and probably mainly by the pesticides used for the cultivation of the plant.
  • In addition to the health problems, Qat production consumes inordinate amounts of water and heavy use of pesticides. This water and land use reduces that available for the production of food and the export of crops.
  • The consumption pattern is increasing by 10% every year and this means the numbers revealed by the study in 2006 are very likely to have by now increased by 20%.
  • qat-plantation The increasing production and consumption of Qat will lead to an environmental and economic disaster. If nothing is done, and Yemenis keep on chewing and planting Qat, they will exhaust the water supply at a time when every man, woman and child is addicted, and then the whole society will collapse.
  • Because of the shortage of resources in Yemen, especially water, there will eventually be a major problem young-qat-chewer directly affecting the Qat industry. It will simply mean higher prices, greedy producers and frantic consumers in five years or so. The health and productivity of the people would disappear and their social structure would be disturbed. There will be food insecurity, increasing malnutrition, diseases and even an increase in crime rate, especially among the younger generation. In juvenile prisons around 95% of the inmates are there because of their dangerous way of life due to qat. They needed to buy Qat and could not afford it so they turned to crime

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