In a front page story in this Sunday’s Washington Post, journalist David Finkel provides one of the first comprehensive U.S. media stories on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, where at least 1 million people face death from famine and drought. The majority of these refugees are women and children.
The crisis has been exacerbated by Pakistan and Tajikistan closing their borders, preventing the entry of refugees trying to escape gender apartheid, genocide, starvation, and disease.
In the past year alone, over 1 million Afghans have fled their homes, trying to enter nearby Pakistan, where many believe they will find food, shelter, work. But Pakistan says that they cannot handle a huge influx of more Afghans and is threatening to send 100,000 back to Afghanistan.
At the Torkham gate, on Afghanistan’s eastern border, thousands of people attempt to make it through the narrow gate, restricted to refugees with valid documentation and open only for certain hours of the day. Most do not make it across, and many are beaten back from the gate. Those who have made it across often end up in Jalozai, a camp where 80,000 Afghans live in makeshift tents made of plastic. Because Pakistan does not want to accept any more refugees, Jalozai is not an official refugee camp. The World Food Programme is not allowed inside, so refugees are left with no reliable food source, little water, and poor medical care.