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Afghanistan: ICRC maintains vital activities

14-09-2001 News Release 01/31

Geneva (ICRC)  -  The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Afghanistan is carrying on its essential work to meet urgent needs among the population of that war-torn and drought-stricken country. With 16 expatriate delegates and some 1,000 locally hired employees staying on, the seven ICRC offices around Afghanistan will remain operational.

Vital activities include providing medicines and other supplies to the country's six main surgical hospitals and some 30 clinics and first-aid posts. The six ICRC physical rehabilitation centres in mine-infested Afghanistan are continuing their work and critical water-supply and sanitation activities in urban areas carry on.

Expatriate staff has been reduced by three quarters over the past three days. The 50 delegates withdrawn are now standing by in Pakistan and other countries in the region. " We have taken these preventive and temporary measures in light of the present uncertainty " , explained Christophe Luedi, who is in charge of Afghanistan at ICRC headquarters in Geneva. " The ICRC is continuously assessing the situation and taking measures to ensure the safety of its staff. Likewise, a close eye is being kept on the ever-changing need for humanitarian aid. "

As in any other conflict, the ICRC will maintain its presence in Afghanistan as long as the safety of its staff is guaranteed by the Taliban authorities and any other party to armed hostilities in the country.

" Afghanistan is one of our largest and longest-standing operations world-wide " , said Luedi. " Our logistical set-up in the region gives us great flexibility in responding to changing needs, particularly in the medical field. "