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Afghanistan: no respite for civilians as violence continues

15-10-2009 Operational Update

Despite the Ramadan celebrations, attacks and fighting continued daily throughout September. Once again, civilians bore the brunt of the violence.

As the delay in announcing the results of the presidential elections continued, security continued to deteriorate in Kabul, Herat and other cities, further damaging an already weak economy. Tensions are running particularly high in the north of the country, but Afghans everywhere are increasingly concerned about their future.

An air strike on fuel tankers in Kunduz on 4 September caused a large number of civilian casualties. The ICRC immediately sent a medical team to support Kunduz provincial hospital. Other delegates spoke to families who were mourning their dead in nearby villages.

The ministry of public health reported 28 deaths from cholera and/or acute watery diarrhoea in the country over the past two months. Most of the deaths occurred in the southern part of the country and in the district of Dar-i-Suf, Samangan Province.

 Activities during September 2009  

 Detention visits and restoring family links  

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

During September, ICRC delegates visited several places of detention holding some 2,000 detainees and followed up on the cases of 75 detainees, 48 of whom the ICRC was visiting for the first time. The organization also paid transport costs for ten ex-detainees to help them return to their villages after release. Over 140 Red Cross messages (short family news messages) were collected from detainees'families with the support of the Afghan Red Crescent Society. Delegates distributed close to 500 messages to detainees

 Promoting international humanitarian law  

Reminding parties to a conflict of their obligation to protect civilians is a fundamental part of the ICRC’s work in Afghanistan. The organization also promotes knowledge of international humanitarian law within civil society.

During September, the ICRC delivered presentations for military legal advisors on the integration of the law of armed conflict into the Afghan National Army curriculum, its protection activities and the rules pertaining to direct participation in hostilities. The organization also presented its mandate and activities to religious leaders, political authorities and Afghan journalists.

 Health  

The ICRC donated medical supplies to Istiqlal Hospital for the treatment of burn injuries caused by the Kunduz air strike of 4 September. The organization also provided Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital and the 400-bed Afghan National Army hospital with medical supplies to treat the victims of a suicide bombing on Kabul’s airport road on 17 September.

ICRC-supported hospitals run by the ministry of public health in Kandahar and Shiberghan (Jawzjan Province) treated over 3,000 inpatients and 15,700 outpatients. Surgeons in the two hospitals performed over 1,000 operations.

In addition:

  • eight ICRC first-aid posts in the south and central regions treated over 500 patients;

  • the ICRC sent two kits of emergency medical supplies to the ministry of public health in Kabul for use during mass-casualty incidents;

  • the ICRC provided drugs and other non-medical supplies to ten Afghan Red Crescent clinics.

 Limb-fitting and rehabilitation services  

Since 1988, the ICRC has been involved in limb-fitting, 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, plus a home care service offering patients with spinal cord injuries and their families medical, economic and social support.

During September, the ICRC:

  • registered almost 350 new patients, of whom over 60 were amputees;

  • assisted over 4,600 existing patients in the six ICRC centres around the country;

  • made over 700 prostheses and orthoses;

  • conducted over 10,000 physiotherapy sessions;

  • granted micro-credit loans to 24 patients so they could start their own small business ventures;

  • facilitated the vocational training of over 230 patients, with 25 completing their training in the period under review;

  • made over 450 home visits as part of the home care programme, which helps over 1,300 pati ents with spinal cord injuries and trains their families to live with and care for them.

 Clean water and safe sanitation  

ICRC water engineers are working closely with Afghan water authorities on a range of programmes, in both urban and rural areas. In addition, the organization promotes hygiene in madrassas, detention centres and private homes.

During September, the ICRC:

  • continued work on two urban sanitation projects that will supply water to over 14,000 people in Herat and Laghman;

  • carried out hygiene sessions for over 5,500 people in urban communities in Kabul, Herat, Farah, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar;

  • continued to improve water supply and sanitation conditions in three provincial prisons, for the benefit of over 1,000 detainees;

  • completed two rural water supply projects and continued work on eight other projects in the provinces of Kabul, Bamyan, Herat, Nangahar, Baghlan and Balkh; these projects are expected to provide clean water for over 40,700 people;

  • continued renovation work on Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar.

 Food and other essentials  

The ICRC distributed rice, beans, ghee, sugar, salt, tea and non-food items to almost 500 families affected by violence in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

 Cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society  

Floods damaged or destroyed the homes of hundreds of families in the Jalalabad area after heavy rains a t the end of August. The Afghan Red Crescent Society, assisted by the Iranian Red Crescent, helped about 500 families living in the affected area.

The ICRC provides the Afghan Red Crescent Society with technical and financial assistance to help it deliver services to the community and to implement a range of programmes, including training sessions for community-based first-aid volunteers.

The ICRC marked the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions on 12 August by releasing the second phase of a survey on the effect that armed conflict has on civilians. The survey covered eight countries, including Afghanistan: ICRC survey on the impact of armed conflict on civilians - views from Afghanistan