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Afghanistan: ICRC activities in June 2009

14-07-2009 Operational Update

Afghanistan is one of the ICRC's biggest operations worldwide, with 111 delegates and around 1,290 national staff based at the organization’s delegation in Kabul and in five sub-delegations and seven offices countrywide.

 Humanitarian situation  

With the conflict intensifying in the south of Afghanistan, the number of wounded civilians arriving in Mirwais regional hospital in Kandahar continues to rise. The ICRC team at the hospital and the ministry of public health are preparing to expand the hospital's capacity to cope with the increase. Villagers unable to reach local health-care services because of fighting, or for other reasons, are also making the long trek to Mirwais. The tally of sick children in the paediatric ward recently rose from 65 to 95 in the course of one week.

During June, ICRC assistance teams worked with the Afghan Red Crescent (ARCS) distributing emergency provisions to displaced families in Kandahar and Zabul provinces. However, the main beneficiaries of ICRC assistance were 700 families who had fled fighting in the Marja district of Helmand province in May. Working through ARCS volunteers, the ICRC assessed the needs of these people and contacted village elders to facilitate the distribution process, which took place in Lashkar Gah over a four-day period. The operation was complicated, as the displaced people were dispersed, some of them living in Lashkar Gah itself, others with host families and relatives in the surrounding villages. Yet more had simply settled in open areas. The ICRC provided rice, beans, and other food, together with blankets, jerrycans and other emergency household supplies, to tide people over until they could return home.

    

 Detention visits and restoring family links  

The ICRC visits places of detention run by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, the US forces and the Afghan authorities, where it monitors the conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees. The ICRC helps families separated by conflict to keep in touch, and responds to requests from families to trace missing relatives.

During June, ICRC protection teams:

    

  • visited places of detention holding over 2,670 detainees;

  • followed up on the cases of 160 detainees, visiting 72 of them for the first time;

  • paid for 17 ex-detainees to return to their villages;

  • collected 435 Red Cross messages, with the support of the ARCS, and distributed 629 (including messages pending from previous months), most of them being between detainees and their families;

  • facilitated 153 video telephone calls between families and their detained relatives in Bagram Theatre Internment Facility (BTIF). The calls were made from the ICRC delegation in Kabul. Forty-six families visited BTIF in person, and the ICRC provides transport for these visits.

 Promoting international humanitarian law  

Reminding parties to a conflict of their obligation to protect civilians is a fundamental part of the ICRC’s IHL-promotion work. The ICRC also promotes knowledge of IHL within civil society.

During June, ICRC delegates and national staff held:

  • four sessions on IHL for 77 officers, sergeants, and soldiers of the Afg han National Army (ANA) and four sessions for 91 members of the Afghan National Police (ANP);

  • 12 meetings/briefings with Afghan military authorities and with international legal and training mentors who work in ANA HQs, at training centres, with the UN, with private military security companies and with field units;

  • 21 dissemination sessions for a total of 449 participants from civil society, including community elders, members of the political authorities, university students, journalists and members of religious circles.

 Health  

The ICRC supports two hospitals run by the ministry of public health: one in Shiberghan (Jawzjan province) and the other in Mirwais, Kandahar. In Mirwais, some 20 ICRC medical, administrative and technical staff are assisting and training the hospital personnel. Five ICRC first-aid posts (FAPs) in conflict areas of south and central Afghanistan provide emergency medical care to the war wounded and others affected by the fighting. The ICRC trains staff to run the FAPs and provides them with medicines and medical supplies. The organization also trains and supplies ARCS community-based first aid volunteers (CBFAs), and the staff of ten ARCS basic health units located in conflict areas.

During June:

  • Shiberghan and Mirwais hospitals treated 3,164 in-patients and 20,053 out-patients and performed 933 operations;

  • 409 patients received assistance at ICRC FAPs in southern and central Afghanistan;

  • 128 ‘war wounded’ kits were sent to front-line areas.

 Limb-fitting and rehabilitation  

Since 1988, the ICRC has been involved in limb-fitting and rehabilitation activities and the social reintegration of disabled people , from landmine victims to those with a motor impairment. The ICRC runs prosthetic/orthotic centres in Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Gulbahar, Faizabad and Jalalabad, and a home-care service offering patients with spinal cord injuries and their families medical, economic and social support.

During June, limb-fitting/rehabilitation personnel:

    

  • registered 572 new patients, of whom 76 were amputees;

  • assisted a total of 6,592 patients in the six ICRC centres countrywide;

  • made 1,279 prostheses and orthoses;

  • conducted 15,229 physiotherapy sessions;

  • granted micro-credit loans to 39 patients to start their own small business ventures;

  • facilitated the ongoing vocational training of 225 patients, with 23 patients completing their training in June;

  • made 665 home visits under the home-care programme, which is assisting 1,292 patients with spinal cord injuries and training their families.

    

 Water and habitat  

ICRC water engineers are working closely with the Afghan water authorities on a range of programmes, both urban and rural. The ICRC conducts hygiene promotion sessions in madrassas, detention centres and other public places, and with families in their homes.

During June, ICRC teams:

    

  • continued an urban project to supply water to 12,000 people in Herat;

  • carried out hygiene sessions for over 7,400 people from urban communities, together with detainees and guards at detention centres in Kabul, Herat, Farah , Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar;

  • completed improvements to water supply and sanitation in five provincial prisons, one women’s prison in Kabul and one juvenile detention centre in Samangan, benefiting 1,242 detainees;

  • continued nine rural water supply projects in Kabul, Bamyan, Herat, Baghlan and Mazar provinces to provide safe water for over 31,700 people.

    

 Assistance  

The ICRC assists families displaced or otherwise affected by conflict or natural disaster.

During June, the ICRC distributed 1,442 food kits (178 tonnes) consisting of rice, beans, ghee, tea, sugar and salt, plus 1,345 household kits containing blankets, tarpaulins and toiletries, to 1,442 conflict-affected families in seven provinces of southern, central, eastern and western Afghanistan. This included the emergency assistance to 700 displaced families from Marja district in Helmand province mentioned above, plus assistance to 285 families in Kandahar province and 263 in Zabul.

 Cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society  

The ICRC provides the ARCS with technical and financial assistance to help it deliver services to the community and to implement a range of programmes.

During June, this included:

  • support for a three-day course for nine ARCS dissemination/tracing field officers in Mazar;

  • running ten training sessions for 200 community-based first-aid volunteers and issuing each of them with a first-aid kit to use once they return to their villages.