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"Ismail's Flight" Cargo of Winter Baby Clothes and Blankets Leaves for Kabul Saturday

By Ralph Lopez - Posted on 19 March 2012



TELEPHONE: 617-412-9438 (USA)

MARCH 24, 2012

After a deadlier than usual Afghan winter for young children, in which at least 40 children under age 5 have frozen to death, the British Afghan Women's Society is ready to launch an air cargo of warm baby clothes, baby formula, and other items which is the result of an outpouring of sympathy by Britons and people from around the world.  Londoners and others responded overwhelmingly to calls for donations of such items last month, after it was reported in the media that many babies had frozen to death in the exceedingly harsh winter. 

The airlift is scheduled to take-off from Liege Airport in Belgium on Saturday, 24 March. 

British Afghan Women's Society website:

The airlift is scheduled to take-off from Liege Airport in Belgium on Saturday, 24 March.   The flight has been christened "Ismail's Flight," after the youngest of the children who froze this winter in Kabul.

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, in the refugee camps where families fleeing from the war eke out a  bare existence. 

The approximately 2,000 kilogram lift will be transported from Liege Airport in Belgium to Kabul through the donated assistance of Global HeavyLift Inc. and its strategic air partners, a civilian cargo transport company based in Bloomfield Hills, MI.   Other partners who made the project possible include Kalitta Air, DHL GB, and Aviapartner Belgium.  Air cargo services which ordinarily can be in competition have been working together.

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

"Given the urgency of matters, we believe the optimal approach is arranging for direct shipment aboard Bagram bound RAF C-17s", says Global HeavyLift Director of Middle-East Operations Benjamin Ballout. "Every effort is being made to implement  this strategy. Moreover, it precludes the necessity of clearances for non-military aircraft flying into a conflict  arena.  Nevertheless, it remains an option."

In Kabul alone, at least 23 children under age five have frozen to death since Jan. 15th in the Kabul refugee camps where over 35,000 people live, most in order to escape the fighting and violence in other parts of the country.    Most of the refugees in the squalid camps live in unheated mud huts or tents.  Although death by cold or starvation, especially among young children, is a common occurence 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 LLC said of the complex logistical team working together, "Not only are they happy to do this, they are excited."

Monetary donations are also 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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