[FoRK] Gated communities, infant mortality and homelessness

Owen Byrne owen at permafrost.net
Fri Feb 4 20:14:26 PST 2005

The growth markets for US exports...

I was in Kabul once and it was flooded with USAID money.. of course that 
was 1975 when the bad guys to the north were also spending money there.


>     In Frigid Capital, Lack of Housing and Planning Is Fatal
> KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 3 - Coughing and wincing in pain, Akakhel, 
> 35, crawled out from beneath a thick quilt in a tent in the snowbound 
> Chaman-e-Babrak refugee camp here.
> "My baby died on Friday night," she said. "He was three days old. I 
> gave birth to him here in the tent. He died of the cold. If I am 
> shivering, then he definitely felt the cold." A baby boy, he was her 
> fourth child, the second one she had lost.
> After eight years of drought, the heavy snows that have blanketed 
> Afghanistan over the past two weeks might seem to be welcome. But for 
> the 4,000 homeless families crammed into tents in several camps around 
> the city, the snow and the cold are bitter reminders that despite 
> billions of dollars in aid and the country's rapid development, 
> thousands of Afghans are still without shelter and the means to survive.
> At worst, for the most vulnerable, they are a death sentence.
> Eighteen people have died since the extreme cold descended on the 
> country two weeks ago, the minister of health, Sayeed Mohammad Amin 
> Fatimie, said in an interview this week. Of the 18 people, 13 died in 
> and around Kabul, including several babies, he said.
> Three women interviewed in the tent camps scattered around the city 
> said their newborns had died in the past 10 days, probably from the 
> cold. Infant mortality is notoriously high in Afghanistan, but Dr. 
> Fatimie said the deaths coincided with the sharp drop in temperature, 
> down to as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
> While the cold will lose its grip eventually, the desperate poverty of 
> many Afghans will not, a fact that has focused attention on the 
> failure of the government and the aid agencies to find a long-term 
> solution for the homeless. Refugees are still being encouraged to 
> return to Afghanistan for political reasons even though the country 
> cannot look after them, critics say.
> An estimated 10,000 homeless people are in Kabul, about 4,000 of them 
> in two squatter camps. In addition, groups of displaced people are 
> living in public buildings and abandoned ruins in as many as 25 
> locations throughout the city. Most are refugees who have returned 
> from camps in Pakistan in the three years since the fall of the 
> Taliban. Some families have been living all that time in tents, with 
> the men scraping up a little work as porters in nearby fruit markets.
> Meanwhile, scores of expensive private villas are going up around 
> Kabul, some of them built by commanders and government officials on 
> former government land, a sign of growing inequities.
> Dr. Fatimie was quick to organize assistance for the camps to combat 
> the cold, bringing in mobile medical teams and getting everyone from 
> the Italian ambassador and the Red Crescent to international 
> peacekeepers to donate food, fuel, blankets and clothes. Yet the 
> energetic emergency assistance only highlighted the neglect of the 
> underlying issue: a drastic shortage of housing, thousands of 
> destitute people and no plan.
> "They assured me they are working on a plan," Dr. Fatimie said after 
> meeting with the three men responsible, the ministers of urban 
> development and housing, of rehabilitation and rural development and 
> of refugees and repatriation. In three years nothing has moved further 
> than that. The minister of urban development, who has the main 
> responsibility for housing, declined to be interviewed.
> The population of Kabul has swelled chaotically, to 3.4 million from 
> 700,000 in just a few years, creating a dire need for housing, said 
> Srinivasa B. Popuri, of the United Nations Habitat Human Settlements 
> Program, which is advising the Ministry of Urban Development.
> The United States Agency for International Development is looking at a 
> site south of the city where it plans to provide housing for 2,000 
> homeless families. But that project, like so many others, remains in 
> the "concept design" stage, a spokeswoman, Joan Ablett, said.
> In any case, the plan is only for people from Kabul and not for those 
> in the camps, many of whom are the landless poor from rural areas with 
> no homes to go back to. The government fears that providing land or 
> housing to squatters will only encourage more to come, officials said.
> "It is a very sensitive issue," Mr. Popuri said. "The government is 
> afraid it will set a precedent and more people will come to set up 
> temporary camps in the city so as to get land."
> Yet if there is no urban planning, Kabul will end up with the huge 
> slums that have grown up in many cities in the developing world, he 
> warned.
> The squatters are weary and bitter. "Karzai announced to the refugees, 
> 'Come back and we will help you,' " Akakhel said, referring to 
> President Hamid Karzai.
> Her family returned just six months ago when the Pakistani government 
> closed down its refugee camp and the United Nations refugee agency 
> stopped rations, said her husband, Janda Gul.
> "We want the government to help us and give us some shelter," he said. 
> "If we survive this winter, we will not survive the next."

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