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Afghan refugee camps report children's deaths in bitter winter

The bitter winter in Afghanistan is claiming the lives of refugee children, camp representatives say.

Afghanistan refugee children winter deathsEnlarge
In this picture taken on February 6, 2012, an internally displaced Afghan boy from Helmand province walks outside mud shelter for the displaced at the Charhi Qambar refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul. AFP PHOTO/ SHAH Marai (SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghan government officials remained skeptical about reports that over 20 children have died in refugee camps from the cold, reported The New York Times.

The AFP reported that the unusually bitter winter is taking its toll on Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban and bombardment from NATO. It gave the example of Del Agha, a farmer who had lost one of his children to the cold. He said, “It was very cold that night. When I woke up my baby daughter was dead.” Del Agha’s family is currently located at the Charahi Qambar refugee camp.

"According to official figures at least 15 children have lost their lives in three of about 40 such camps in Kabul from cold over the past month," said the AFP, but camp residents claimed that numbers were twice as high.

The Times focused on a different family, that of Sayid Mohammad of the Nasaji Bagrami refugee camp. Mohammad lost his last son, after suffering the loss of seven out of nine of his children previously to disease and cold weather. The family lives in a “hybrid dwelling, part mud hut, part tent, with United Nations-branded canvas for a roof.”

Skeptical officials told The Times the reports were exaggerated in order to attract more money and aid. Mohammad Daim Kakar, the director general of Afghanistan’s disaster assistance agency, said, “Is that reasonable that all of them would die at night?”

Camp representatives showed The Times stone markers in the cemetery, indicating the latest victims of the bitter winter.

Earlier this week, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told Reuters that more than $1 billion in international aid was needed to secure conditions for the safe return of Afghan refugees to their homeland.

More on GlobalPost: More than 3,000 civilians killed in Afghanistan war last year - UN

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/afghanistan/120208/afghan-refugee-camps-report-childrens-deaths-b