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Afghanistan: ICRC supports research on tent insulation

21-03-2002 News Release 02/12

A researcher from Cambridge University is currently in Afghanistan for three weeks to test a new tent-lining material that could dramatically improve living conditions in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons. The ICRC is providing logistical support and field-testing facilities.

The tents used to shelter refugees and displaced persons are usually made of canvas and not suitable for cold climates. In Afghanistan, during the winter of 2000, a number of people living in damp and freezing conditions in uninsulated tents or similar shelters died of hypothermia or contracted respiratory diseases.

Cambridge University has been working on a new insulating liner that could be used in standard tents to maintain a decent temperature while letting out humidity. This new liner, based on roofing material, will obviously improve the health and well-being of families living in tents, but positive side-effects are expected as well. According to Joseph Ashmore, the Cambridge research assistant in charge of the project, " A potential 75 per cent saving in the fuel required to heat tents could make a huge difference in large camps and avoid the terrible environmental damage caused by the deforestation of entire areas. The money saved could be used for medicine, food and other needs. "

The field research, which is being carried out in camps near Herat, will help fine-tune specifications and adapt the insulating material to different types of heating systems.