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Amnesty: Afghanistan Must Improve Winter Aid to Displaced

Internally displaced Afghan men and children warm themselves around a fire at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul, December 12, 2012.
Amnesty International said there is a "desperate and immediate need" for the Afghan government and its donor partners to improve aid delivery to displaced people during this year's winter, which has so far killed 17 people living in displacement camps.

The rights group said in a statement Tuesday that most of those who died in the first two weeks of this month were children. It also warned against a repeat of last winter, when 100 people died in camps due to a lack of assistance.

Amnesty's Deputy Asia-Pacific Director Polly Truscott called the deaths "a preventable tragedy" and blamed "inadequate coordination of winter assistance" to the hundreds of thousands of people living in displacement camps across the country.

The group reported that in one incident in the western province of Herat, the provincial government had not delivered aid to internally displaced people because officials feared the aid would encourage them to stay in the area rather than return home.

Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai has ordered an investigation into this week's United Nations report alleging that torture remains widespread in Afghanistan's prisons and that the Afghan government appears to be trying to hide the mistreatment.

In the report issued Sunday, the U.N. mission to the country said it found "credible and reliable evidence" that more than half of the 635 "conflict-related detainees" interviewed at 89 facilities spread across the country had been tortured. The report criticized the government for refusing to prosecute those accused of torturing prisoners.

While the Afghan government has disputed the report's findings, Mr. Karzai on Tuesday ordered a fact finding team to report back within two weeks so that authorities can take follow-up measures.