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Afghanistan: medicine on the move

07-11-1996 News Release 96/44

The ICRC has stepped up its emergency medical activities in response to the continuing fighting north of Kabul. To supplement the warring parties'own arrangements for the evacuation of the wounded, delegates working in conjunction with the Afghan Red Crescent Society have had two ambulances ferrying casualties every day from the front line to the main hospitals in the Afghan capital. The victims are collected along two main roads linking Kabul and Bagram airport some 60 kilometres away. Evacuating the war-wounded often entails crossing enemy lines, and on 3 November an ICRC vehicle driven by a field officer was caught in the cross-fire.

In October more than 300 war-wounded were admitted to the capital's Taliban-run military hospital , a facility receiving a degree of ICRC medical support. Over the same period, two other Kabul hospitals, both of which have since 1993 been receiving full ICRC support for their surgical services (medicines and other medical supplies, fuel oil and food), admitted nearly 350 more victims of the conflict. The five facilities administered and assisted by the ICRC in Afghanistan (Karte Seh and Wazir Akhbar Khan hospitals in Kabul, Mirwais hospital in Kandahar, Jalalabad provincial hospital and Ghazni hospital) have admitted a total of 1,877 patients since 29 September. Many other victims have been hospitalized outside the capital by the belligerents themselves, some in the Panjshir valley, under the control of Commander Masood. The ICRC has therefore dispatched a consignment of medicines and other medical supplies there as well.

On 31 October delegates assessed the need for surgical supplies at the Qala-I-Now hospital located in Badghis province in the north-west, where General Dostom's forces are engaged in an offensive. The ICRC sub-delegation in Herat is also closely following the situation of hundreds of civilians who recently streamed into the town after fleeing the fighting.

In both Kabul and the rest of the country the ICRC is continuing its protection work. From 29 September to 4 October, 1,054 new detainees held by all parties to the conflict were visited and registered.