Afghanistan is experiencing the harshest winter for 15 years. Hundreds of men, women and children have died of exposure.
With temperatures dropping below minus 29 degrees Celsius thousands of cattle have also died. Many villages are isolated.
One of the hardest hit regions is Herat province in West Afghanistan, according to the Christian relief and development agency Shelter Now. The German branch started a winter relief initiative even before Christmas.
Originally it was focused on the needs of the many hundreds of refugees returning from Iran, who often find their houses and fields ruined. But as Udo Stolte, director of the German Shelter Now branch, told the evangelical news agency ³idea², many more Afghans are suffering from the extreme cold.
In Herat and the region around the capital Kabul Shelter Now has handed out survival kits to more than 1,000 families. The team in Herat under the leadership of the German agriculture specialists Ewald and Gudrun Goettler has first hand experience of the hardship.
150 families in Kuh Khag village have lost at least 1,000 of their 6,000 sheep. Several shepherds are missing in the hills.
Villagers are running out of food and fuel. Shelter Now is providing 1000 families in Kuh Khag with rations of flour, beans, sugar, tea, cooking oil, blankets, charcoal and warm childrenıs clothing.
In Herat 450 families 2,600 persons have received winter aid through Shelter Now. An additional 600 families have been reached in Kandahar and Kabul region. Most of them live in windowless ruins or worn tents, according to Stolte.
He is glad that Shelter Now was able to react quickly to the need. When the winter initiative was started in December nobody could foresee how extreme the situation would turn out to be. More than 84,000 US-Dollars have been donated so far in Germany.
70 Cents are enough to help a family through a day; 56 Dollars will get them through three winter months.
Shelter Now has been active in Afghanistan since 1988. In 2001 the radical Islamic Taliban took eight foreign workers hostage four Germans, two US-citizens and two Australians. They managed to escape miraculously after 102 days in captivity and were flown out by US forces.
Other articles by Wolfgang Polzer:
Wolfgang Polzer (56), is senior news editor of the Evangelical News Agency (idea) Wetzlar (Germany), which he joined in 1981. In all, he has spent 30 years in Christian media.
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