British correspondent to The Guardian reports that 100 Afghans perish daily
as strained aid network collapses under flood of new arrivals.
Refugees left in the cold at 'slaughterhouse' camp
Doug McKinlay, The Guardian
Herat, January 3, 2002--Maslakh camp, translated as Slaughterhouse in English, is on the brink of an Ethiopian-style humanitarian disaster, aid workers have warned. Situated 30 miles west of Herat city, the camp is home to more than 350,000 displaced Afghans, of whom 100 die each day of exposure and starvation. With more than 15 years working in humanitarian disasters, Ian Lethbridge, executive director of the Berkshire-based charity Feed the Children, says Maslakh is among the worst he has experienced...
Izzah Burza, 38, and her family have been at the camp, on the site of a former abattoir, for a month. Escaping the war and drought, they were drawn by the rumour of food. But to date they have received none.
"We travelled more than 125 miles to this camp," she said. When I arrived I had four children, now I have two. We've had nothing to eat for a week." Her story is common. Although Maslakh was set up four years ago to deal with the drought, the recent conflict has swollen the camp.
Fresh arrivals find themselves in a catch-22 situation. They cannot get help until they are registered as refugees by World Food Programme staff. But they cannot register without help. At the moment, the WFP has only a skeleton staff at Maslakh, not nearly enough to deal with the thousands already there, let alone those who show up daily.
Forced to make do outside the camp itself, the newcomers pitch whatever shelter they can muster on a barren plain littered with human waste. Families without any shelter are forced to dig foxholes in the frozen earth to escape the biting wind. The lucky ones have a few tattered blankets or torn plastic sheets as cover.
A stone's throw from the foxholes is one of the many graveyards on the camp's edges. The small size of the graves is clear evidence that most of the buried are children. With the coming of the winter snow, the number of graves will grow...
Although next to no aid is getting to the camp, last week Feed the Children managed to fly 40 tonnes of food and shelter into Herat's airport on a 30-year-old Ilyushin cargo plane. ...
While the west was striking at the Taliban, many in Maslakh kept a keen ear to the radio, listening for updates. With little fighting in Herat province, they expected a quick response from western governments. Aid was thought to be on its way. But with next to nothing showing up, they feel bitter and let down....
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