National Press Club

Amnesty International calls Afghan refugee situation 'hidden but horrific' crisis

February 29, 2012 | By Peter Hickman | pjhickman@hotmail.com

T. Kumar, director for international advocacy of Amnesty International USA, speaks at a National Press Club Newsmaker, Feb. 24, 2012

T. Kumar, director for international advocacy of Amnesty International USA, speaks at a National Press Club Newsmaker, Feb. 24, 2012

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Half a million Afghans displaced by war and struggling to survive in makeshift shelters have been let down by their government and international donors "that look the other way", according to a report released by Amnesty International at a February 24 Newsmaker.

T. Kumar, director for international advocacy for Amnesty International USA, said the Afghan government estimates that more than 40 people have frozen to deaths in camps across the country. He said at least 28 of these were children.

The report, "Fleeing War, Finding Misery: The Plight of the Internally Displaced in Afghanistan", said about 400 more people are displaced daily. It said the capital of Kabul alone has up to 35,000 displaced persons in 35 slum areas around the city.

But throughout Afghanistan, the report says, UN agencies and humanitarian organizations cannot deliver effective aid to the displaced groups because they are prohibited by the government from assistance that "implies the permanence" of the camps. So for example, it adds, "instead of digging permanent water wells, they are forced to deliver water to displaced communities in tankers."

Horia Mosadiq, Amnesty International's Afghanistan researcher, is quoted in the report as saying that local officials "restrict aid efforts because they want to pretend that these people are going to go away. This is a largely hidden but horrific humanitarian and human rights crisis."