The situation is becoming ‘dire’ at the U.S. Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, which is currently housing 10,000 Afghan evacuees – including 2,000 pregnant women – as nighttime temperatures drop to freezing point and what was meant to be a 10-day humanitarian mission has already extended to more than a month.
The air base has already been hit with cases of the measels among evacuees, and now it needs to care for 2,000 pregnant woman – with 22 babies already being born in the 10 weeks that they have been waiting for evacuation flights to the US, sources told CNN.
One of CNN’s sources referred to the evacuees at Ramstein as ‘the forgotten 10.’
It set up for screenings and processing of evacuees, but a case of the measles among Afghan evacuees in the U.S. complicated an already-convoluted situation by pausing flights until at least October 9.
Around that date, the U.S. will announce if they’ll restart flights or extend the temporary pause.
A member of the U.S. military pulls a cart among children and adults whiling away time at a tent city of temporary accommodation built by the United States Air Force for evacuees from Afghanistan at Ramstein Air Base on September 20
About 350 tents were set up on the runway of the Ramstein Air Base in Germany as a ‘temporary humanitarian city’
Small children are among the 10,000 Afghan evacuees that a source told CNN are part of the ‘forgotten 10’
This is the before and after look at one of the runways was turned into a temporary city
To accommodate the large influx of people, Ramstein airplane hangars were quickly cleared and more than 350 tents were set up on the base’s ramps with more than 10,000 cots and sleeping bags.
But only are two-thirds of those tents are heated, as officials work to secure heaters and generators, a source told CNN.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ramstein Air Base about two weeks ago. The images out of Ramstein during his visit showed a number of refugees sitting on the floor as they wait to be processed.
When the military base first became a temporary city, conditions were basic. The encampment contained tents for prayer and medical services, showers, Porta Johns and small spaces for recreation.
The base also procured a contract with local vendors to provide 30,000 meals per day. Dozens of pallets of water bottles were trucked in daily.
The base and the evacuees have relied on these outside vendors for food and water, but the German embassy in the US downplayed any concern over the longer-than-expected stay.
‘It remains our mutual understanding that Ramstein airbase can be used as a transit point for evacuees from Afghanistan on their way to the U.S. for a limited amount of time. We are confident that the air operations will restart soon,’ a spokesman for the embassy told CNN.
But simple necessities – like baby bottles – have became a scarce commodity.
Erin Gonzalez, a volunteer and military spouse, told Stars and Stripes that they’ve given out thousands of baby bottles to mothers who need them because malnourishment and stress are making it difficult to produce breast milk.
Moldy bottles were being thrown out because there was no way to clean and sanitize them.
With so many expecting mothers, the situation is only going to get worse.
Ramstein command approved a volunteer effort that turned a bar with a dishwasher and space for storing, sorting and drying into a bottle sanitation area, Stars and Stripes reported.
Airman first class Luis Miranda of the United States Air Force greets children among evacuees from Afghanistan living in temporary accommodation at Ramstein Air Base on September 20 at the Ramstein Air Base
The makeshift city on the runway in the US air base in Germany has already been in use nearly two months longer than originally scheduled
Groups of six to eight volunteers sanitize hundreds of bottles daily, working two four-hour shifts, which often go longer, the outlet reported.
It takes about an hour to clean 200 bottles, and an air compressor speeds up drying. On the busiest day, about 900 bottles are sanitized.
Ramstein was the main stopping point during the evacuation of Afghanistan.
About a fifth of all people airlifted by the U.S. from Kabul were brought to Ramstein – about 100 miles south west of Frankfurt.
Many left family members behind or were split up during the chaotic push to escape the violence in Afghanistan.