Over 200 thousand Afghan refugees have fled their country for Pakistan. Driven across the border?
Over 200 thousand Afghan refugees have fled their country for Pakistan. Driven across the border by guerrilla fighting and the need for food and shelter, they come in growing numbers each day. Pakistani authorities say they're doing what they can, but there are fears the aid may soon run dry.
SYNOPSIS: As many as four thousand Afghan refugees a day have been pouring over the bitter cold, windswept border area into Pakistan. They have been driven across the mountains by an offensive designed to crush the Moslem insurgents threatening the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan. According to refugee reports, large areas of western Afghanistan have been depopulated and laid to waste. They claim entire villages have been burnt to the ground and hundreds of women and children killed.
Pakistan has been doing its best to handle the huge influx. Conservative estimates put the total number of refugees at 255-thousand. The Islamabad government has distributed what tents it has available, but in camps around the town of Parachinar, there are only 675 tents for five thousand families Many refugees have to sleep in the open surrounded only by their few possessions.
Temperatures are dropping sharply, often reaching freezing at night. Blankets are being distributed, but there are hardly enough to go around and everyone fears the cold winter months ahead. Food is less of a problem that shelter. Pakistan is providing a small amount of money to each refugee and special shops sell grain at controlled prices.
A large problem is medical care. There are no hospitals along the border and makeshift shelters have been erected to cater for the refugees. There's already been an outbreak of measles and the fear is it could turn into an epidemic. Medical teams are trying their best to contain the outbreak.
New arrivals are taken to the local bazaar. There they are issued with whatever bedding and blankets are available. All the refugees have a similar story to tell. They speak of air attacks that caught them unaware, of indiscriminate firing on women and children and of villages and possessions being destroyed. Most of the men among the refugees have been directly involved in fighting the Afghanistan Government. They have promised to return to fight, but the recent government offensive seems to have been successful. Morale among the guerrillas is said to be low and any chance of a counter attack before spring is considered a remote possibility. Now the refugees accept the bedding and the rough and cold conditions in their camps, resigned to the fact that for the moment at least they are homeless.