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Update No. 96/1 on ICRC activities in Afghanistan

30-01-1996 Operational Update

 Drastic food shortages in Kabul  

The Afghan capital is caught in a stranglehold, its supply lines cut. Over recent months three of the four access roads to the city have been permanently closed, whilst the fourth, running from Jalalabad to Kabul, has only been open intermittently. The blockade on the capital has led to rampant inflation, pushing prices for the most essential items beyond the reach of the majority of Kabulis. During 16 years of war, civilians have exchanged their valuable possessions for basic supplies, but now there is nothing left to sell. Many are utterly dependent on outside assistance. However, these food supplies are also running out. If no solution is found soon, the ICRC's stocks will be exhausted by the end of the week.

 ICRC mounts air-lift operation  

In order to meet the immediate needs of Kabul's most vulnerable population, including the families of disabled breadwinners, widows, recent returnees and the destitute, the ICRC is planning to organize an airlift from Peshawar (Pakistan) to Kabul starting in early February and continuing throughout the month, conditions permitting. Some 1,000 tonnes of food supplies should be flown into the Afghan capital to ensure the continuation of the relief programme that the ICRC carries out in cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society. The ICRC will thereby provide at least 100,000 impoverished Kabulis with enough food to last for four weeks. However, this operation is only a stopgap solution to the supply problems of the capital. If the situation does not improve soon, the number of vulnerable individuals will soar. The ICRC is sparing no effort in its negotiations between the parties concerned to open the supply lines to Kabul, so that its estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million inhabitants can be assured of sufficient provisions of food.

 Other needs not forgotten  

In addition to its food distributions, the ICRC is continuing its agricultural and income-generating programmes in Kabul and the neighbouring provinces which aim to restore a degree of self-sufficiency to the Afghan population. These projects helped around 65,000 families in 1995. 

The institution also supports 65 hospitals and other health facilities, such as dispensaries and first-aid posts, treating the war-wounded throughout Afghanistan. In addition, the ICRC is currently completing the rehabilitation of the surgical department of Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar. In 1995 the ICRC's orthopaedic centres in Kabul, Jalalabad, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif produced orthopaedic appliances and fitted some 2,600 people with artificial limbs.

Last year delegates visited some 3,900 detainees in 50 places of detention, checking on their material and psychological conditions of detention and enabling them to write messages to their families. In 1995 the ICRC's tracing service collected and distributed some 14,000 Red Cross messages.

Respect for international humanitarian law remains a priority in time of conflict. Together with the Afghan Red Crescent Society, the ICRC set up a dissemination network in 1995 to spread knowledge of basic humanitarian rules among combatants, Red Crescent staff and the population in Kabul and the provinces.

 Personnel  

The ICRC currently employs 52 expatriates in Afghanistan, ten of whom were seconded from the National Societies of Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Some 23 expatriates, seven of whom were seconded from the National Societies of Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Japan, Norway and the United Kingdom, work in Pakistan to support the Afghan operation as well as to run the ICRC hospital in Quetta.