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Update no. 98/07 on ICRC activities in Afghanistan

05-06-1998 Operational Update No 98/07

 Red Cross/Red Crescent teams doing their utmost for quake victims  

Five days after an earthquake rocked the Faizabad region, causing loss of life, injury and the devastation of entire villages, members of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement are working around the clock to render first aid, evacuate the seriously wounded and provide medical assistance to clinics and referral hospitals, as well as distributing non-food relief (plastic sheeting, tarpaulins, blankets and soap) to survivors.

To date, over half of the 87 villages in the disaster-stricken area have been assessed, despite heavy rains and the inability to land in every community. It appears that the overall affected area extends further to the north and south than initially thought. Locals report that many people are feared to have been buried under landslides triggered by the recent spate of bad weather. The supply of water poses a problem in some villages where wells have also been destroyed.

 Emergency medical operation shifts focus to north and east  

In the western area (Takhar province) Red Cross/Red Crescent teams have already evacuated serious medical cases and provided on-the-spot treatment for the injured. The main focus has therefore shifted to the eastern and northern region where the evacuation of the wounded remains a priority.

Those evacuated from Badakhshan province are taken directly to Faizabad hospital which has sufficient bed capacity and facilities to cope with the emergency. Thirty Afghan doctors and an ICRC surgical team are providing medical care. The hospital is constantly being resupplied by the ICRC.

In the Cha'ab region in the north-west, the seriously injured were evacuated to the town's clinic, which is fully supported by the ICRC. In Shar-i-Bozorg in the east, five villages which have been totally destroyed by the earthquake were visited by Red Cross/Red Crescent teams and 25 people were evacuated to the referral hospital. The proper functioning of the town's clinic is problematic owing to tension between local commanders.

So far, the ICRC has evacuated 75 serious cases and treated hundreds more in the villages visited.

 Emergency operation enters second phase  

As many of the wounded have already been evacuated or brought to the various medical structures, the ICRC is already planning the second phase of its operation: looking for warehouse capacity, setting up a second office in Rostaq, contacting the authorities and other humanitarian organizations with a view to launching a relief operation to distribute food and non-food items. Initial surveys show that needs vary from village to village, depending on the degree of destruction.

 A logistical challenge  

Owing to the mountainous terrain and the lack of roads, humanitarian players in the region have to rely on helicopters to transport supplies and personnel to the affected villages. However, these aircraft cannot fly in poor weather conditions and can only land in clearings. An ICRC airplane touched down twice yesterday in Faizabad with 3.4 tonnes of medical supplies and five tents aboard. However, a further flight had to be cancelled because of bad weather.

Both the UN and the ICRC have made contacts to obtain additional helicopter s and are taking steps to set up a fuel pipeline. Twenty-five barrels of fuel should be arriving in Dushanbe today from where they will be flown to Faizabad to refuel helicopters already working in the disaster area.

 Personnel  

The Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement currently has staff and volunteers of the Afghan Red Crescent Society working in the region, together with 11 ICRC delegates and two delegates of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. An emergency committee consisting of four ICRC representatives is coordinating the medical and relief activities with other humanitarian organizations in Islamabad and the ICRC sub-delegation in Peshawar, as well as its delegation in Dushanbe, are providing invaluable logistical support. The Federation has a representative in Islamabad and is coordinating the Federation's assistance to the operation from its Kabul delegation, under the overall responsibility of the ICRC. Federation delegations in New Delhi, Islamabad and Dushanbe are providing further assistance. Additional staff will be sent within the coming days, including two Federation delegates who are currently on stand-by.