Cold wave kills 22 more displaced Afghans-Taleban
KABUL, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Severe cold has killed another 22 Afghans and more could perish if international assistance does not arrive soon, a ruling Taleban official said on Saturday.
Hunger and war have forced tens of thousands of Afghans to flee their homes and seek refuge in U.N. camps outside the western city of Herat, where the 22 were reported dead.
"People are in a very desperate and unfortunate condition and unless emergency international assistance arrives more would perish," Taleban information minister Qudratullah Jamal told reporters. He said the total death toll since Wednesday had reached 322, mostly women and children.
The United Nations World Food Programme said in Geneva on Friday that at least 480 Afghans have frozen to death this week as temperatures fell below -25 degrees Celsius (-13.00F) at the camps.
Jamal said an estimated 80,000 people were at risk because of an acute shortage of medicine in Herat, where most of Afghanistan's internally displaced have camped in the open since September.
"There is not enough shelter and heating. We have assisted the people through whatever possible way we could...Aid agencies have given some assistance, but that is not adequate," he said.
The World Food Programme has asked for some $87 million to reach 2.4 million Afghans hard hit by the worst drought in 30 years. Afghanistan also has seen continuing war as the Taleban tries to capture the estimated five percent of the country still under opposition control.
Tens of thousands of Afghans had sought shelter in neighbouring countries, most of which have clamped down on entries. Pakistan alone has received more than 100,000 Afghan refugees since September.
Jamal said rain-fed crops have largely failed in most of land-locked Afghanistan, where some 85 percent of its 22 million population are on subsistence living.
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