A sharp upsurge in American bombing raids on Kandahar and the adjacent province of Helmand is forcing tens of thousands of new refugees to pour towards the Afghan border with Pakistan. There are thousands of displaced persons in the suburbs of Kandahar, who are fleeing to the Chaman border in the coming days as bombing raids intensify.Pakistan closed its border at the start of the crisis to all but women with sick children and elderly relatives, but 2,000 of these emergency cases have crossed from Afghanistan in the past two days.
Already, Killi Faizo staging camp has processed 5,300 people in the last month in addition to 1,300 who are livingthere now, while another 4,000 are sleeping in the rough on the other side of the camp’s barbed wire.
Refugees trapped on the Afghan side suffer at night in below-zero temperatures.
And yesterday, four refugees were killed in a stampede for food outside a camp for displaced people in westernAfghanistan. The camp, already home to some 100,000 displaced people, has been unable to accommodate recentarrivals, thousands of whom have gathered in recent months in a field ringed with human waste. Many say conditionsare even worse in the mountains, where drought means there is no food and no trees to burn for heat.
UNICEF has warned that up to 100,000 children in camps and cities inside Afghanistan could die of cold, disease andhunger if essential relief supplies are not made available in the next few weeks.
- Tony Cross, correspondent for Free Speech Radio News and Radio France International in Islamabad.