Dire Situation Continues for Refugees in Afghanistan

An Afghan named Ibrahim holds his youngest son outside a mud hut where he lives with his wife and 11 children. Normally, Kabul’s winters are mild for a city in a mountainous country, but not this year. It was the coldest January in 20 years, according to Mohammad Aslam Fazaz, deputy director of the national disaster office. Most nights, temperatures dropped below 20 degrees. Credit: Andrea Bruce for The New York Times

In previous years, the government of Afghanistan had been hesitant to support refugee camps and provided little funding to better the conditions of Afghani refugees for they believed camps disrupted Afghanistan’s infrastructure. However, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Switzerland and the United Nations officials attended a conference in Geneva last Thursday and finalized a $1.9 billion plan to support and assist 9 million Afghan refugees. Shaukat Ullah, Pakistan’s minister for states and frontier regions said, “We should consider this conference as a starting point of an international consensus for an orderly and safe, voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees”. Yet, in reality, war and violence persists in Afghanistan, preventing millions from returning home. Therefore, the international community must focus on what they can do in the meantime to prevent the loss of lives, better the living conditions in the camps, and prepare refugees for successful repatriation.

The nature of the current and ongoing war in Afghanistan is not easily predictable; however, one predictable aspect of the living conditions for Afghani refugees is the severe weather. Afghanistan’s characteristic winters force people to stay indoors as much as possible and make living very difficult. Kabul, Afghanistan, where 45 refugee camps are located, can resemble the sub-arctic, where temperatures can dropas low as -31 °C. With little clothing and food, the lack of a heating system, and no money for medical treatment, living conditions can be unbearable for Afghan refugees, especially children. A French aid agency, Solidarites International, carried out a survey this March to investigate the conditions of the refugee camps and the situation of the refugees. Reports found that over 100 children lost their lives during this past winter season due to the cold conditions at numerous refugee camps. Although the data is still being collected from multiple camps, the current calculations show that the mortality rate is 2.5 per 10,000. Julie Bara who led the survey stated that this mortality rate establishes the situation as a full-fledged humanitarian disaster.

Winter has now come to an end, but these deaths could have easily been prevented if there could have been an immediate distribution of funds and a more knowledgeable, assertive international community. Additionally if the refugees were given the opportunity to obtain jobs and an education, they may have been able to ensure housing and protection for themselves.

Refugees International Japan supports internally displaced people and refugees from all around the world with a focus on giving opportunity to people to rebuild their lives. Officials at the conference acknowledged the difficulty of raising the promised fund for Afghanistan; your support for the Afghan refugees is very much needed and appreciated. Please donate to this cause and/or join Refugees International Japan to raise awareness of refugee issues, so loss like that of Afghanistan in these past months can be prevented in the future. We can now look hopefully at the future of Afghan refugees with the secure backing of the international community.

Article by Alisha
Edited by Kanako

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