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The BBC's Kate Clark in Kabul
"Aid workers had trouble just getting to the camps"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 11:00 GMT
Cold snap kills Afghan refugees
Refugee camp
The camps offer little protection from bitter cold
At least 110 Afghan refugees sheltering in camps have died because of heavy snowfall and extreme cold.

Most of those who died in the camps in the western city of Herat were children, women and elderly people.


Lack of proper shelter, blankets and fuel... contributed to the high date rate in the camps

UN Afghan office
The United Nations says the victims died in a single night as temperatures plummeted to -25C.

A UN emergency appeal for funds to help an estimated 80,000 refugees who have fled to Herat has been largely ignored.

Shortage

Conditions at the camps are hampered because of a shortage of blankets, quilts and tents - the refugees only have plastic sheets to keep them warm.

"The shelter shortage is so severe that there are still some 5,000 families sharing 1,700 one-family tents," the UN office in Afghanistan said.

Snow in Kabul
The winter snow has generally been welcomed
"Lack of proper shelter, blankets and fuel can be assumed to have contributed to the high date rate in the camps," it said.

Some 300 to 500 displaced Afghans have been arriving at the Herat camps everyday, driven by a drought affecting much of Afghanistan, hunger or the war.

"It is now feared that displacement will continue into various areas of the country and across international borders for at least the next several months," the UN said.

The UN Co-ordinator for Afghanistan, Eric de Mul, had issued an appeal for $3.5m to house and clothe the refugees but only $200,000 has been pledged so far.

Pakistan visit

The BBC's Kabul correspondent, Kate Clark, says however that the snowfall has generally been welcomed in the country.

She says it acts as a water reservoir and provides the best insurance against drought.

The heavy snowfall has also led to the postponement of a visit to Kabul by Pakistan Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider.

It would have been the highest level visit by a Pakistani leader since the military coup in Pakistan in 1999.

Mr Haider was due to discuss the UN sanctions imposed on Afghanistan earlier this month, the influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and the Saudi dissident, Osama bin Laden.

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See also:

09 Jan 01 | South Asia
UN moves to save Afghan refugees
08 Dec 00 | Media reports
Afghan refugees stranded in no-man's land
22 Dec 00 | South Asia
UN funding hole threatens refugees
21 Dec 00 | South Asia
Pakistan warns of Afghan exodus
11 Jan 01 | South Asia
Afghan refugees' unending plight
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