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Afghanistan: Overview of key ICRC operations

14-12-2001 News Release 01/50

 ICRC active in Kandahar  

    

Throughout the recent events in Kandahar, about 70 Afghan ICRC staff worked hard to help the city's Mirwais hospital maintain its services. Medical supplies were provided for treatment of the wounded and fuel was delivered for the facility's vital electricity generators.

When the fighting ended, the ICRC was asked by the local authorities to assist in removing bodies from the scene. As in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif before, this grim task is being carried out by ICRC staff and Afghan Red Crescent Society volunteers, to give the dead a dignified burial and help preserve minimum standards of public hygiene. More than 20 bodies have been buried so far.

    

 Visits to detainees in Shiberghan central prison  

    

In accordance with the ICRC's standard procedures in its visits to places of detention, on 12 December delegates began individual registration of over 3,000 persons currently held in Shiberghan central prison. This will allow the organization to keep track of them throughout their detention. The registration process is expected to last two weeks.

An ICRC doctor is at the prison to check the detainees'health. If necessary, he will make appropriate recommenda tions to the authorities. Those requiring medical attention are being taken to a secure ward at Shiberghan military hospital which was set up with ICRC assistance. Every detainee has received a blanket from the ICRC.

The ICRC is currently carrying out regular visits to some 1,000 people held in detention throughout Afghanistan. They have all been given the opportunity to write Red Cross messages to their families.

 Supplies for the displaced in Mazar-i-Sharif  

The situation in the camps on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif where internally displaced persons have taken refuge is further deteriorating owing to the cold and rainy weather. This week the ICRC distributed emergency relief supplies (food rations and blankets) to 3,872 people in three camps and to other vulnerable people living nearby. " The most vulnerable people in the camps need help, but so do destitute local people " , explained Michael Kleiner, an ICRC spokesman in Kabul. " This aid is necessary not only to meet the enormous needs of local people but also to avoid creating tension between the displaced and the resident population. "

 ICRC winter relief arrives in Kabul  

    

The ICRC is once again sending supplies by road to Kabul. Commercial trucks hired by the organization are now regularly making the journey to the Afghan capital from Peshawar. " This enables us to begin large-scale relief distributions in Bamiyan and to particularly vulnerable individuals in Kabul, such as orphans and hospital patients " , said Jean-Marc Molliet, the ICRC's logistics coordinator for Afghanistan.

The first convoy of 19 trucks arrived from Pakistan on Sunday 9 December and a continuous flow of vehicles loaded with rice, wheat, ghee (local cooking oil), blankets, tarpaulins and cooking pots is arriving daily. " We also intend to stock up the new warehouse quickly, before the celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan " , Molliet added. " Then we can begin distributions immediately afterwards. " The ICRC has rented new storage space after its warehouses were destroyed during the recent bombing campaign.

In all, 121 truckloads will be needed to transport to Kabul over 1,600 tonnes of food (rice, peas and ghee), 46,000 blankets, 8,000 tarpaulins, 10,000 collapsible water containers and 14,000 pressure cookers.

 Aid programme for rural families resumes in Ghor province  

    

ICRC relief supplies have begun arriving in Khamenj, the first of three destinations in the central highland province of Ghor. There the ICRC is aiding families covered by its rural assistance programme for conflict and drought victims which started at the beginning of the year. This programme was interrupted because of security concerns after the events of 11 September, but was resumed as soon as safe access to remote areas of the province again became possible.

On 2 December, the first ICRC team left the western city of Herat on the three-day journey to the provincial capital Chagcharan. A survey was carried out to determine the needs of families that had remained in the area. A few days later, the first of some 80 ICRC-hired commercial trucks followed, having crossed two 3,000-metre mountain passes where snow was already covering the roads.

In lower areas, rivers that have to be crossed are swollen by rain. " It is now a race a gainst time to complete the distributions before snow blocks access to remote villages " , said Christophe Coeckleberg, head of the ICRC office in Herat.

To speed up the distribution process, the ICRC is working with local authorities who had already helped identify needy families in their villages. " Because little snow has fallen so far, we still hope to complete the planned distributions by the end of December and are working hard to achieve this " , explained Mark Steinbeck, the ICRC's relief coordinator for Afghanistan. " About 350,000 people will receive food under this programme.

The three places in Ghor province where the ICRC is now distributing relief supplies are Chagcharan, Khamenj and Shahrak.