News / Asia

22 Children Killed by Afghan Winter's Cold

People walk up the hillside after a snow storm in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 4, 2012.
People walk up the hillside after a snow storm in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 4, 2012.

A report in The New York Times says at least 22 Afghan children, all under the age of 5, have frozen to death in the past month in two refugee camps in the capital, Kabul, after fleeing with their families from Afghanistan's war zones.  The newspaper says the dead children include 3-month-old twin girls and a month-old boy.

The report says government officials have sought to "suppress or play down" the deaths.  However, The New York Times says the children's deaths have prompted "soul searching among aid workers" who question how children could be dying of something as "predictable and manageable as the cold" in a country that has received tens of billions of dollars in humanitarian aid and international development assistance.  Afghanistan is experiencing one its coldest winters in decades, with temperatures reaching far below the freezing point most nights.

A U.N. official told the newspaper there are 35,000 people in the two Kabul camps without heat or electricity.  He said the situation is "a humanitarian crisis."  

The Times says the camps do not qualify for development aid because they are viewed as temporary facilities and because "many Afghan officials oppose their presence."

An Afghan aid worker told the newspaper the camp residents do not have access to health care, education, food, sanitation or water.  Camp residents say food distribution by the World Food Program stopped last year.

The New York Times reports a French aid group, Solidarities International, has recently surveyed the mortality rates in the camps.  The group said the death rate for children under 5 was 144 per 1,000 children, meaning one out of 7 children in the Kabul camps is not living until his or her 6th birthday.

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