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Update No. 96/4 on ICRC activities in Afghanistan

18-10-1996 Operational Update

The Afghan conflict, long ago faded from the headlines of the international press, has risen to the forefront once again. Fierce fighting between the Taliban and a new coalition force - composed of the former government of Professor Rabbani, General Dostom's mainly Uzbek Jumbesh party and Mr Khalili's Hazara Wahdat faction - has intensified. The intersection of the Panjshir and Salang valleys sets the backdrop for major armed confrontation. Although Kabul has not been significantly affected by these developments so far, the situation remains highly volatile in the capital and elsewhere.

Non-essential staff in Kabul have been redeployed to the ICRC's sub-delegations. Sixteen expatriates, including one member seconded by a National Society, ensure the continuation of the ICRC's activities in the Afghan capital despite the current turmoil. Female staff, including locally hired employees, are able to carry out humanitarian work.

 Caring for the war-wounded  

To date, the majority of victims directly affected by the conflict have been combatants. High losses were incurred and hospitals are stretched to their limit to cope with the influx of war-wounded. The ICRC is assisting medical facilities receiving patients from the front lines. A surgical team based in the ICRC's hospital in Quetta has been sent to Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar to reinforce the medical team there. This hospital has treated 300 war-wounded in the past week. The Taliban have evacuated more than 100 war casualties from Kabul to Kandahar and others have been transferred to Jalalabad.

 Providing for the most vulnerable  

The supply line from Peshawar (Pakistan) to Kabul remains open to humanitarian and commercial traffic. Since the beginning of October the ICRC has transported some 750 tonnes of food to Jalalabad and Kabul. Distributions to 30,000 vulnerable families, which include disabled breadwinners, widows, recent returnees and the destitute, continue but are subject to daily evaluations of security conditions. Monthly half-rations of food and material assistance are handed out to widows separately.

ICRC aircraft can still land at Kabul's airport but the ICRC has recently stopped using the eastern road to Jalalabad owing to renewed insecurity in the Sarobi area. An ICRC convoy carrying medical supplies and blankets reached the northern part of the Panjshir Valley yesterday. The team which accompanied the convoy is to assess protection needs in the region and visit detainees if possible. Another team, coming from Mazar-i-Sharif, is currently assessing medical requirements in the Salang Valley.

Other activities - such as visits to detainees in Kabul and elsewhere, re-establishing family links and orthopaedic work - are going on.

 Personnel  

The ICRC currently employs 65 expatriates in Afghanistan, 17 of whom have been seconded by the National Societies of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Some 20 expatriates, seven of whom have been seconded by the National Societies of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom, work in Pakistan to support the Afghan operation and to run the ICRC hospital in Quetta.