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Afghanistan: No end to the suffering

28-08-1997 News Release 33

With the continuing fighting, the infrastructure in ruins, the galloping inflation, the countless people displaced and the scourge of mines, to alleviate the suffering in Afghanistan is a more formidable humanitarian challenge then ever.

Since the beginning of the year the number of direct victims of the conflict has risen sharply. A Taliban offensive on the Mazar-i-Sharif district last May resulted in particularly heavy casualties, then there were sporadic but equally violent clashes in July and August. After visiting just over 3,500 prisoners in 1996, the ICRC has already registered more than 5,000 in the first six months of this year. Its distributions of food and other relief supplies are likewise growing steadily: in addition to the 220,000  people already assisted by it in 1996, especially among the needy residents of Kabul, more than 80,000 other beneficiaries in the Herat, Qala Nau, Maimana, Mazar-i-Sharif and Pul-i-Khumri districts and in the Panjshir valley are now also receiving ICRC aid.

The north of the country is at present a virtual enclave and essential medical supplies there have been severely disrupted. In the next few days the ICRC will be organizing an airlift of about 100 tonnes of medicines and other medical items to Mazar-i-Sharif to ensure their availability until the end of the year. It has also observed that the death rate among war casualties in the Charikar and Baghram districts north of the capital is alarmingly high: every third and sometimes even every second casualty is dying for lack of appropriate care.  Increased assistance in the form of supplies and staff is therefore envisaged.

In view of this critical situation, the managem ent of the ICRC has just decided to allocate an additional 25,439,899 Swiss francs for its humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, thus raising the 1997 budget for its operations there to 87,029,314 Swiss francs.