Bitter cold kills 110 Afghan refugees in one night: UN


In just one night 110 people — most of them women and children with only plastic sheets to keep them warm — died this week in refugee camps in western Afghanistan when temperatures plummeted to minus 25 centigrade (minus 13 Fahrenheit), the United Nations said Wednesday.

An emergency U.N. appeal for dlrs 3.5 million to house and clothe an estimated 80,000 Afghans driven from their homes by a devastating drought and living in desperate conditions in camps in western Afghanistan seems to have been largely ignored.

According to a U.N. statement issued in neighboring Afghanistan barely dlrs 200,000 has been pledged, while Erick de Mul, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator pleaded for dlrs 3.5 million just to buy blankets and tents.

The refugees living in camps in Afghanistan western Herat began arriving last July, driven from their homes in search of food and water, their crops and livestock decimated by the worst drought in 30 years.

“Over 110 displaced persons in camps in Herat, Afghanistan died due to extreme cold on the night of Jan. 29,” de Mul said in a statement issued in neighboring Pakistan.”It is believed the main victims of the extreme temperatures were children and the elderly.”

The conditions there are desperate, says the United Nations.

According to the United Nations 5,000 families are sharing 1,700 tents, with each tent meant to house just one family. Most families in Afghanistan have at least four children, many much more.

And according to the U.N. statement the situation is only getting worse with the weather improving only slightly. Temperatures on Tuesday rose to minus 16 centigrade or minus 3 Fahrenheit.

For several months the United Nations workers in both Afghanistan and Pakistan have been warning of a refugee crisis, with millions of people in the war-ruined Central Asian nation affected by drought as well as a protracted civil war.

The drought has virtually wiped out most crops in the south, west and central regions of the country and devastated 75 percent of the livestock.

In the last five months 155,000 Afghans have fled their homeland for Pakistan, where they are living in squalor in refugee camps in northwestern Pakistan. The United Nations says it is struggling to find the resources to house and clothe the newest arrivals to Pakistan, a poor country barely able to feed its own population of 140 million.

“It is feared that the displacement will continue into various areas of the country and across international borders, at least for the next several months increasing the total numbers of displaced” and requiring even further assistance, the U.N. statement said.