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Heat, Lack of Water Killing Refugees

Asia: As temperatures soar and drought continues, Afghan children at camp in Pakistan are dying daily.

May 11, 2001|From Associated Press

JALOZAI CAMP, Pakistan — Afghan children living in squalor in northwestern Pakistan are dying daily, most of them from dehydration and heat stroke in temperatures pushing past 100 degrees, doctors said Thursday.

Sixteen people died this week, most of them children, said Dr. Javed Pervez, director of health for the Afghan Refugees Commissionerate, a Pakistani government office.

"We left one hell to come to another one," said Saeed Ullah, one of 80,000 people who fled drought and war in Afghanistan and now live in the Jalozai camp.

The camp is a sprawling and barren dust bowl. There are no trees, and water has to be trucked in daily. The refugees have been living in tents made of plastic sheets, although some canvas tents were recently brought in. Health facilities are sparse--the camp didn't have an ambulance until Wednesday.

The United Nations has pressed Pakistan to allow it to register the refugees in Jalozai, a step toward relocation and more assistance.

But with 2 million refugees already in Pakistan, the army-led government worries that it will be left to care for the refugees once the emergency ends and funding stops.

The U.N. in 1995 stopped funding the 1.2 million Afghan refugees already in Pakistani camps. Another 800,000 live in cities throughout the country.

Afghanistan is experiencing the worst drought in living memory. It has killed entire herds, destroyed crops and caused more than 500,000 people to become refugees in their own country.

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