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Update No. 96/3 on ICRC activities in Afghanistan

02-10-1996 Operational Update

 ICRC works on despite Taliban take-over  

A few hours after the take-over of Kabul by the Taliban the ICRC's Head of Delegation in Afghanistan met the Taliban's leadership to discuss the continuation of the institution's activities in the Afghan capital. As all the necessary guarantees were given, ICRC operations on behalf of conflict victims can go on.

Prior to the Taliban offensive on 25 September, the ICRC reduced its delegation to essential staff only. With the resumption of flights to the Afghan capital four days later, the Kabul delegation was once again fully staffed.

 Health activities  

As soon as the fighting had subsided, the ICRC resumed its support to Kabul's main hospitals where a few hundred war-wounded combatants had been treated following clashes on the outskirts of the city. The six-month stock of medical supplies, which the institution had built up in the event of escalating violence, proved to be adequate.

Despite recent developments the ICRC has been able to carry on its orthopaedic work in the capital without interruption. Medical activities outside Kabul, including the Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar, proceeded without any major difficulty.

 Relief assistance  

Regardless of political change, the vulnerable population in Kabul - the destitute and those families headed by a disabled breadwinner or widow - still relies largely on outside a ssistance and needs will increase with the onslaught of the bitter Afghan winter. The ICRC therefore assists some 250,000 beneficiaries with monthly half-rations of food, as well as non-food items such as clothes and fuel. The delegation in Pakistan, which provides logistical support to relief activities in Afghanistan, has organized a convoy of 35 trucks carrying 500 tonnes of food aid from Peshawar to Kabul. This convoy is currently on its way to the capital.

Throughout the country the Afghans are encouraged to help themselves through the ICRC's agricultural programme, which includes the manufacture of tools by urban craftsmen, projects aimed at raising the food production capacity of selected communities and the restoration of irrigation canals, as well as seed and tool distribution. These programmes have not been affected by the recent political changes.

 Activities for detainees  

Delegates have visited places of detention in the capital and have confirmed that all the detainees previously visited by the ICRC have been released. However, ICRC visits to detainees in detention centres outside the capital have continued.

 Cooperation with the National Society  

Future cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society, which has worked closely with the ICRC in the context of relief, medical and dissemination programmes, depends largely on the new National Society structure. The questions has already been raised with the new interlocutors in Kabul, but it is still too early to predict the outcome of this discussion.

 Personnel  

The ICRC currently employs 68 expatriates in Afghanistan, 25 of whom have been seconded from the National Societies of Australia, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Some 20 expatriates, including seven seconded from the National Societies of Australia, Canada, Finland, Japan, Norway and the United Kingdom, work in Pakistan to support the Afghan operation, as well as to run the ICRC hospital in Quetta.