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Afghanistan: insecurity at a critical level for civilians

14-07-2011 News Release 11/150

Geneva/Kabul (ICRC) – Pierre Krähenbühl, the director of operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is in Afghanistan for a five-day visit during which he has met with national and international leaders and officials and with members of the armed opposition to share the ICRC's concerns for the civilian population at a time when the armed conflict is entering a new phase.

He has also met with ordinary Afghan families and with people receiving ICRC aid in various parts of the country.

"I spoke with all of them about my grave concerns for the civilian population in areas where fighting is going on," said Mr Krähenbühl. "I discussed with the parties to the conflict their obligation to respect, and ensure respect for, international humanitarian law. In particular, I insisted on the need for proper safeguards to ensure that detainees are treated humanely and held in conditions respecting international standards. I also insisted that the wounded and sick from all sides must be properly cared for. Hospitals and other medical facilities, ambulances and medical personnel must be respected and protected at all times."

Insecurity is at a level that is critical for Afghans everywhere, in cities as in remote rural villages.

"Afghans today are living in an environment where increasing numbers of people openly carry weapons and armed groups proliferate," said Mr Krähenbühl. "Besides uniformed forces, a multitude of opposition and pro-government armed groups are actively engaged in fighting."

''Afghans living in villages where conflict is rife are having to take an impossible decision: choose sides or leave home,'' added Mr Krähenbühl. "This is the reality of Afghanistan today."

Access to health care is being severely compromised by roadside bombs, long detours over mountain roads to avoid routes that are closed, and delays at checkpoints. Local health-care facilities in some areas are closed or the staff have fled. Simple poverty prevents many rural families from taking costly taxis to reach medical facilities unless the patient’s condition is life threatening.

"Providing help where it is needed, as close as possible to the victims of the conflict, and in a way that is neutral, impartial and independent, must be the driving force behind humanitarian endeavour," concluded Mr Krähenbühl. "It is ever more needed in Afghanistan, and increasingly difficult to achieve in such an unstable environment."

Afghanistan is the ICRC's biggest operation in terms of resources committed. The organization has nearly 1,600 national staff and 142 expatriates based in its main delegation in Kabul and in five sub-delegations and 10 offices countrywide. In addition, it operates seven physical rehabilitation centres.

For further information, please contact:
Jessica Barry, ICRC Kabul, tel: +93700 282 719
Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 730 24 26 or +41 79 251 93 02


Photos

Pierre Krähenbühl 

Pierre Krähenbühl
© ICRC
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Mirwais Hospital, Kandahar. A boy who broke his leg while running from the scene of a shooting waits with his mother. 

Mirwais Hospital, Kandahar. A boy who broke his leg while running from the scene of a shooting waits with his mother.
© ICRC / K. Holt / v-p-af-e-01625

Intensive care unit, Mirwais Hospital, Kandahar. A man waits by the bed of a relative badly injured in a bomb explosion in Kandahar City. 

Intensive care unit, Mirwais Hospital, Kandahar. A man waits by the bed of a relative badly injured in a bomb explosion in Kandahar City.
© ICRC / K. Holt / v-p-af-e-01643

ICRC limb-fitting centre, Kabul. Therapists treat patients with cerebral palsey. 

ICRC limb-fitting centre, Kabul. Therapists treat patients with cerebral palsey.
© ICRC / K. Holt / v-p-af-e-01740