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Afghanistan: ICRC reinforces team

19-11-2001 News Release 01/56

Geneva (ICRC) – Four additional delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived in Kabul on 19 November to help step up ICRC activities in the Afghan capital. The four had been based in Islamabad since 16 September. They will be joining three other expatriates who have been in Kabul since the middle of last week and the 500 Afghans who have kept ICRC operations running there over the past two months. More expatriates will be returning to Kabul in the coming days.

Two ICRC delegates have also been present in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif since 16 November, while the five-member expatriate team based in Faizabad is continuing its activities throughout the area. Other delegates will be returning shortly to Herat and Jalalabad. The ICRC withdrew its expatriate staff from Afghanistan on 16 September when the Taliban authorities and the ICRC agreed that their safety could no longer be guaranteed.

The ICRC has nevertheless been able to maintain most of its projects in the country thanks to the work of its 1,000 Afghan staff. These projects include distributing medical supplies to hospitals and other health facilities, running six limb-fitting centres, restoring water-supply systems in Kabul and elsewhere, and distributing food and other items to particularly needy groups in urban areas. 

Since last week's events, ICRC staff have been visiting medical facilities to ensure that enough supplies are available. They have organized the collection and burial of bodies left in the streets. ICRC expatriate delegates have been visiting detention centres in Kabul a nd Mazar-i-Sharif to register the detainees and provide them with the opportunity to write Red Cross messages to their families. The delegates have also met with the authorities to remind them of their obligations under international humanitarian law concerning the treatment of prisoners, care for the wounded and protection of the civilian population.

Additional ICRC resources will be deployed in Afghanistan in the days and weeks ahead, in accordance with the specific needs assessed by teams on the spot and as the security situation permits. " The resumption of regular ICRC flights to Afghanistan will allow a much more efficient use of our resources " , explained Pascal Duport, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul. " Those of us who had to leave Afghanistan in September are very happy to be back " , he added. " It was frustrating to be so far away from our Afghan colleagues and from our operations on the ground. "