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Afghanistan - ICRC Co-operation with the Red Crescent Society - January 2002

18-04-2002 Operational Update

During 2001, with its nation-wide branch network and over 8,000 volunteers, the Afghan Red Crescent Society carried out activities in each province of the country such as vocational training, Food-For-Work, Marastoon, distribution of food and non-food items, youth activities, tracing and dissemination activities.

To build up the capacity of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), the ICRC, together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (the Federation), works closely with the ARCS. With technical and financial support from the ICRC and the Federation, the ARCS ensures grassroots assistance to the most vulnerable members of the Afghan population affected by the conflicts and natural disasters such as earthquake and drought.

During 2001, with its nation-wide branch network and over 8,000 volunteers, the ARCS carried out activities in each province of the country such as vocational training, Food-For-Work, Marastoon (institutional service for destitute families and mentally retarded persons), distribution of food and non-food items, youth activities, tracing and others. Dissemination activities, that are meant to raise public awareness of the Movement and to promote the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), were often conducted along with mine awareness sessions.

Throughout the recent crisis, the ARCS, with the support from the ICRC and the Federation, continued most of its programmes to assist needy and vulnerable Afghans. Since the fall of Taliban regime, the ARCS has undergone major institutional changes and now has a new leadership. The ICRC is currently working with the Federation to support the ARCS in its efforts to re-establish itself: the most urgent tasks being review and revision of its legal basis, reassessment of its capacities at branch and headquarters levels, identification of training needs, and redefinition of programmes in view of current needs and operational capacities. So far, four below mentioned programmes were identified as priority in 2002.

 Mine Awareness:     

The ICRC provides technical assistance to four ARCS mine awareness teams that normally visit the areas identified in co-ordination with UN Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA). In 2001, two additional teams were set up and trained as emergency response teams. Cluster bombs were used in the recent bombardment in Afghanistan, and mine awareness teams work hard to ensure the public is aware of the danger the unexploded bomblets represent. The ICRC has been financially supporting the ARCS mine awareness programme since 1994.

 Tracing Programme:  

In absence of a fully functioning postal system in Afghanistan, the ICRC, in co-operation with the ARCS, provides detainees and separated civilians with the possibility to communicate with their family members through the Red Cross Message (RCM) network. The RCM and family reunification services are the main components of the tracing programme which aims at re-establishing family links severed by the conflict. The ICRC provides training to the ARCS field officers to carry out tracing activities in an efficient and co-ordinated manner. Each year thousands of RCMs are exchanged.

 Dissemination Programme:  

The communication department of the ARCS works to promote the Movement and the International Humanitarian Law. It publishes a biweekly bulletin and a quarterly magazine as well as other promotional materials. Technical and financial support is regularly provided by the ICRC in order to maintain quality of their publications. Furthermore, ARCS field officers organise awareness sessions at village level, contributing to public understanding on the Movement and the IHL.

    

 Conflict and Disaster Preparedness Programme:  

In close collaboration with the Federation, the ICRC supports first aid training to ARCS volunteers, both women and men, who are active in their community.

 Co-operation with Other National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies  

Many National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies feel compelled to help meet the enormous humanitarian needs in Afghanistan. The ICRC, assuming its leading role in the Movement, identified possible humanitarian projects which can be delegated to Participating National Societies (PNS). Short assessment missions are currently being organised for over ten National Societies interested in getting involved in the field of health, water and habitat, relief and co-operation with the ARCS. It is vital that the components of the Movement work together to mount a coherent response in the reconstruction process.