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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 17:16 GMT
Iran refugee camps 'getting worse'
Makaki camp
Iran has closed its border to stop the refugee influx
Conditions are deteriorating at two overcrowded Afghan refugee camps near the Iranian border, with reported outbreaks of cholera, tuberculosis and dysentery.

If the number of refugees increases, we will need to build a well-equipped clinic in the camp

Dr Reza Harandi
About 100 newly arrived Afghan refugee families sheltering at one of the Iranian-run camps have also protested against the lack of tents and food.

Iran, which is home to more than two million refugees - mostly Afghans - has closed its border with Afghanistan, and the United Nations refugee agency is concerned about the safety of refugees in camps on the Afghan side of the border.

On Wednesday, the head of UNHCR, Ruud Lubbers, called on Iran to open its borders to refugees from Afghanistan, which has been the target of US-led military strikes for sheltering Osama Bin Laden.

TB outbreaks

Reza Harandi, an Iranian doctor at the Taleban-controlled Makaki camp, told Iran's IRNA news agency that more than 20 refugees at the camp had tuberculosis.

An Iranian doctor examines an Afghan refugee woman at Makaki
There are reported cases of cholera, TB and dysentery in the camps

There was also a case of cholera and an epidemic of other diseases including dysentery and eye infection, he said.

IRNA also reported malnutrition, depression and infectious diseases such as malaria in the second camp, Mil-e 46.

A doctor at the camp said those infected were kept in separate tents and 17 had been taken to hospital in Iran.

Refugees who recently arrived at Makaki blocked Red Crescent vehicles trying to pass through from Iran to the camp early on Thursday in protest at the lack of tents and food.

More camps

Iran has set up the two camps just inside Afghanistan and plans to build more to receive some 400,000 refugees believed to be fleeing towards the Iranian border.

Hundreds of refugees have been stranded for days around Makaki, which is filled beyond capacity with some 7,000 refugees, reports the Iranian agency.

They are living in terrible conditions - I have been crying for them

Border official Abdolrahim Lalzad

Taleban border official Abdolrahim Lalzad pleaded for the admission of more than 350 Afghan families who arrived there recently.

"They are living in terrible conditions. A large number of women with new-born babies are spending nights in the open field. I have been crying for them," he said.

See also:

30 Oct 01 | South Asia
UN says 'don't ignore refugees'
28 Oct 01 | South Asia
UN plea on Afghan refugees
22 Oct 01 | Business
Pakistan counts cost of war
22 Oct 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Afghan refugees' plight
21 Oct 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
A refugee's ordeal
21 Oct 01 | South Asia
Chaman's queue of despair
23 Oct 01 | Education
Afghan girls' second chance
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