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Refugee fleeing from fighting face deadly Kabul cold in Camps

31 December, 2012

KABUL: The snow that fell on a refugee camp in Kabul last week left thick powder piled voluptuously on the sagging roofs of huts and skinny tree branches, turning the squalor into a winter wonderland.

Mr. Rahmani and his family had fled the fighting in the Sangin district of Helmand Province and had come here to the Charahi Qambar camp in Kabul, one of 46 unofficial refugee camps in the capital.

"At first they were happy and played in the snow, until they saw it was so cold and it was a dangerous sugar for them.

A sugar from the sky, but it kills," he said. This is one of the two camps in Kabul where a total of 22 children died with the cold in the course of three unusually heavy snow storms and unseasonably cold weather, which is continuing.

Most of the refugees here are from Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan, and many are from the Sangin district there, which was and still is one of the most violence-prone areas in Afghanistan. Some have been in the camp as long as seven years.

The refugees' biggest concerns are lack of food and firewood. Everything else is secondary. Few of the children have coats or warm clothes of any kind, other than the occasional ragged sweater.

Most do not have socks, and shoes are often little more than plastic sandals.

In some of the houses there are just a few blankets, and it is not uncommon for four people to share one. Nearly everyone seems to be sick, and medical care is spotty and often unaffordable. "It has been months since we have tasted sugar," Mr. Mohammad said.

There was fuel, but they burned it. There was food, but they ate it. They said blankets had been handed out, but they sold them in warmer times to buy food. They had sold warmer clothing, too.

End.

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