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Afghanistan: ICRC resumes relief distributions

05-10-2001 News Release 01/38

Geneva/Islamabad (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has recently resumed distributions of food and shelter material to displaced persons in Mazar-i-Sharif, in the northern Taliban-held area of Afghanistan. Meanwhile it has carried on with food distributions in the Badakhshan area, near Faizabad, in territory controlled by the Northern Alliance.

Over 35,000 displaced persons sheltering in Mazar are receiving half rations for six weeks of rice, wheat, split peas and ghee. In addition, 1,000 newly arrived families who fled fighting between Taliban and Northern Alliance forces are also being given shelter material, blankets and jerrycans.

" Our Afghan colleagues in Mazar have been assessing both the needs and the security situation on the ground. They advise that distributions be continued of food and other vital relief items to the most needy " , said Mark Steinbeck, ICRC relief coordinator for Afghanistan, and currently based in Pakistan. " Both the food and the shelter material were in our stocks and intended for people displaced by the drought or conflict. "

In Badakhshan, there has been no change in the ICRC " food-for-work " programme under which families – totalling some 30,000 persons – repair irrigation channels; there has been no problem supplying them with food rations. The ICRC is making its food stocks in Herat available to the World Food Programme to enable that agency to continue feeding displaced people living in camps in that area.

The ICRC is also busy supporting hospitals, clinics and first-aid posts throughout the country. It was able to replenish medical stocks i n and around Kabul when a cross-border convoy arrived there on 29 September. " A second two-truck convoy left Peshawar today and should arrive in Kabul tomorrow”, Steinbeck said. “And we hope to keep sending in essential medical supplies by truck from Pakistan and later on also from Iran " . The organization's six limb-fitting and rehabilitation centres are pursuing their work as concern mounts about landmine accidents. " It is a fact that people are on the move, either leaving the cities or trying to reach the border areas " , added Steinbeck. " Landmines are still a horrific reality in Afghanistan, and we can expect an increase in the number of tragedies they cause. "

On 16 September the ICRC was forced to withdraw its expatriate staff temporarily from Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan. An international team continues to coordinate some activities from its base between Faizabad and Gulbahar. Meanwhile, 1,000 dedicated Afghan ICRC staff continue their humanitarian work all over the country.