UNODC published a 54-page report highlighting organized crime in Eastern Africa. It said the local market for heroin was worth approximately $160 million and as much as 22 tons of the illicit drug is trafficked to the region each year.
Heroin has been present in the region for at least three decades. The UNODC said most of the heroin comes to the region by sailing vessels from coastal areas near Iran and Pakistan. It said air couriers have also been used to bring heroin through East Africa.
Afghanistan is typically singled out for its heroin production. UNODC said larger volumes of heroin were coming into the region since 2010.
"Between 2010 and 2012, more heroin was seized than in the previous 20 years," the report said. "In the first five months of 2013, more heroin had been seized than in the previous two years."
UNODC said Wednesday it was unclear if the increase in seizures was a consequence of increased trafficking or increased maritime patrols.
"Eastern Africa's heroin problem is likely rooted in its use as a transit area," the report said. "To stop the heroin flow, the most potent interventions could be found in countries hosting the supply or in those hosting the demand."