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Airlift of Donated Winter Baby Clothes for Afghans Ready to Take-off from Belgium

By Ralph Lopez - Posted on 23 March 2012




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Baby winter clothes and items arrive at sorting facility in Kabul, DHL volunteers.

After a deadlier than usual winter for young children in Afghanistan, in which at least 40 children have frozen to death as a result of inadequate clothing, shelter, and blankets, a British Afghan Women's Society  air cargo of warm baby clothes, baby formula, and other items has arrived in Kabul, to be sent to the refugee camps in Kabul where many of the freezing deaths occurred.  The cargo is the result of an outpouring of sympathy from Britons and people from around the world, who responded overwhelmingly to calls by the Society for donations of these items.

The cargo was transported through the generous donation of air transport services from a number of companies working together, picking up different legs of the trip.  It is believed that this is the the first time a purely cooperative effort attempting end-to-end delivery of such a large quantity of donated relief items has been accomplished in the Afghan theater.  The donated items are being driven directly to the camps after sorting and will be put into the hands of the neediest families.

The refugee camps hold an estimated 35,000 people who have fled the violence and fighting in other parts of the country, and live in squalid conditions, mostly in tents and mud huts.

Twenty three of the deaths occurred in the camps in Kabul, considered the most secure area of the country.  All were children under five.

The British Afghan Women's Society gathered over 2,000 kilos of childrens' clothes and blankets, the weight equivalent of a Ford Explorer.   The transport mission is led by Mr. Myron Stokes of Global HeavyLift Holdings Inc. of Bloomfield Hills, MI, working with strategic partners at Kalitta Air of Ypsilanti, MI, DHL-Great Britain, Fast Forward Freight, Belgium, and Aviapartner Belgium.  Also instrumental in getting the parties together was Ed Corcoran of Rally for Afghanistan.

British Afghan Women's Society website:

The airlift took-off from Liege Airport in Belgium this weekend, and will arrive in the refugee camps in Kabul sometime this week.   The flight has been christened "Ismail's Flight," after the youngest of the children who froze who were named in a New York Times report.  Ismail was 30 days old. 

The donation of childrens' items comes as relations between the Afghan government and the US government are at an all-time low, after recent incidents such as the Quran burnings last February and, more recently, the murder of 16 civilians allegedly by a US soldier now in custody.  The organizers noted that in addition to the great need for the winter baby clothes, the timing of the delivery to the refugee camps in Kabul is significant, as it coincides with the Afghan New Year.

"It's the  first week of Afghan New Year.  This will mean so much to them" said ZarGhona Rassa, director of the British Afghan Women's Society.

Afghan tradition holds that on Nowruz, the week of celebrations for the New Year, if a person is warm and kind to their relatives, friends and neighbors, then the New Year will be a good one.

As reported in the BBC by Mr. Andrew North on 21 February, "Nearly 40 children have frozen to death in Afghanistan, according to Afghan officials, as the country experiences one of its harshest winters in decades."  More than half these deaths took place in and around Kabul, the most secure area in the country.

The DHL air crew handling the final leg of the mission into Afghanistan had volunteered to fly into the dangerous airspace, at risk, in order to deliver the load. 

Although death by cold or starvation, especially among young children, is a common occurrence every winter in rural areas in Afghanistan, this year the world was shocked as dozens of infants and young children froze in the most populous and secure city, the capital of Kabul. 

In February Andrew North of the BBC reported the story of Mr. Samid Gul, who had recently lost an infant daughter.  Mr. Gul said:

"We were up all night trying to keep her warm, but there weren't enough blankets.  Then we heard her cough.  It was her last breath."

The temperatures on the coldest nights in Kabul ranged from just below freezing to minus-ten degrees Celsius, for refugees living, for all practical purposes, outdoors with no heat in such temperatures.

In January the BBC's Bilal Sarwary reported of life in Kabul in general that "Many homes lack basic heating and many Afghans simply do not have enough clothes to keep them warm."  The deaths in Kabul were also reported by Rod Nordland of the New York Times. 

Myron Stokes of Global Heavy Airlift, Inc. said of the complex logistical team working together, "Not only are they happy to do this, they are excited."

Monetary donations are still being accepted by the British Afghan Women's Society for the project .  American credit cards can be used even though donations are denominated in British pounds.  A small conversion fee may be charged.  Please reference donation with the note "winter012."

British Afghan Women's Society online donation link:

Further donation information

Photojournalist Andrea Bruce covering the story:


UPDATE: Starvation Among Children in Afghanistan Reaches Epidemic Proportions

According to Save the Children, who are working in Afghanistan, 60% of Afghan children - more than 15 million - are chronically malnourished, and starvation kills 30,000 each year . ITN’s Emma Murphy reports from an Afghan hospital.  



BBC: "Children freeze to death in Kabul winter":

BBC: "Little Comfort in Afghan Cold"

"Child Malnutrition Rises in Afghanistan as Obama Renews "Committment" to Rebuild" by Ralph Lopez

"In the Midst of $2 Billion Per Week Spending on War, Babies Freezing in Kabul for Lack of Food, Fuel" by Ralph Lopez

IRIN News Agency: "Food shortages cause grass eating, displacement":

Driven Away by a War, Now Stalked by Winter’s Cold" by Rod Norland, New York Times, Feb.3, 2012

 "Uncovering the Sadness of Young Deaths", by Rod Nordland/Andrea Bruce photography, New York Times, Feb. 8, 2012

The author is co-founder of Jobs for Afghans.

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