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Afghanistan: ICRC activities in April 2009

13-05-2009 Operational Update

Afghanistan is one of the ICRC's biggest operations worldwide, with 109 delegates and around 1,270 national staff working at the organization’s delegation in Kabul and in five sub-delegations and six offices countrywide.

 Humanitarian situation  

    

April was another volatile month. Suicide bombings increased in Kandahar and included one outside Mirwais Hospital (one of two Afghan hospitals the ICRC supports) and another in the provincial council offices that killed 13 people, including the province’s education director and deputy health director

The ICRC completed its aid programme for 20,098 drought-affected families in western Afghanistan during April. Ironically, the distribution of goods was disrupted by rain. While the rain was welcome after years of drought, it left rivers swollen and roads impassable. The beneficiaries'food stocks had been minimal, and these supplies will help tide them over until the next harvest, which is due in June and is expected to be good this year.

An earthquake in Sherzad district, Nangahar province on 17 April left 21 dead and nearly 60 injured. Staff and volunteers from the Jalalabad branch of the Afghan Red Crescent (ARCS) were on the spot within hours, helping to search through the rubble, providing first aid to survivors, and assessing needs. Emergency assistance was immediately provided for 200 families.

    

 Detention visits and 'restoring family links' programme  

    

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

During April, ICRC teams:

  • visited several places of detention holding over 1,700 detainees in all;

  • followed up on the cases of 522 detainees, visiting 63 of them for the first time;

  • paid the local transport costs for 13 ex-detainees to return home;

  • collected over 380 Red Cross messages with the support of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) and distributed over 1,200, some of which were pending from March;

  • facilitated 134 video calls between families at the ICRC delegation in Kabul and their detained relatives in Bagram Theatre Internment Facility (BTIF). Forty families visited Bagram in person and the ICRC provides transport for these family visits.

    

 Promoting international humanitarian law  

    

Reminding parties to a conflict of their obligations to protect civilians is a fundamental part of the ICRC’s role worldwide. The organization also promotes international humanitarian law within civil society.

During April, ICRC dissemination officers around the country held:

  • five sessions on IHL for 148 officers, sergeants and soldiers of the Afghan National Army and three sessions for 121 members of the Afghan National Police;

  • six teen meetings with Afghan military authorities;

  • five sessions for a total of 112 community elders, four sessions for a total of 97 members of religious circles, two sessions for journalists, and one session for 36 members of the political authorities.

    

 Health  

    

The ICRC supports two hospitals run by the Ministry of Public Health. Twenty-two expatriate doctors, nurses and administrators assist and train staff at Mirwais regional hospital in Kandahar. The ICRC runs five first-aid posts, provides their staff with medicines and medical materials to treat the wounded and carries out training.   The ICRC supports ARCS community-based first aid volunteers, together with ten ARCS basic health clinics in south-western, southern and eastern Afghanistan. In April, the ICRC sent 117'war-wounded'kits to the front lines to treat people injured during fighting.

During April, the ICRC-supported hospitals in Kandahar and Sheberghan saw a total of 4,059 in-patients and 21,588 outpatients. Surgeons in the two hospitals performed a total of 1,900 operations. At the end of April, the ICRC transferred its support for the surgical department of Jalalabad Public Health Hospital 1 to an NGO that was already working in the hospital. In addition, the ICRC made an ad-hoc donation of medicines to Ali Abad hospital in Kabul during April.

 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, and a home care service offering patients with spinal cord injuries and their families medical, economic and social support.

During April, centre personnel:

  • assisted 515 patients, of whom 94 were amputees;

  • made 1,396 prostheses and orthoses;

  • conducted 16,524 physiotherapy sessions;

  • granted micro-credit loans to 44 patients for them to start their own small business ventures;

  • facilitated vocational training for 252 patients, of whom 11 completed their training in April;

  • made over 597 home visits in April as part of the home care programme, which is assisting 1,248 patients with spinal cord injuries and training their families.

    

 Water and habitat  

    

ICRC water engineers are working closely with Afghan water authorities on a range of urban and rural-based programmes. The organization conducts hygiene promotion sessions in madrassas and other public places and with families in their homes.

During April, ICRC water and habitat teams:

  • ran two urban projects to supply water to 17,000 people in Kabul and Herat;

  • conducted hygiene sessions for 5,200 people in urban areas of Herat, Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar;

  • made improvements to the water supply and sanitation in two provincial prisons and in one women’s prison in Kabu l city, benefiting a total of 545 detainees;

  • ran seven rural water supply projects in villages in Bamyan, Herat, Baghlan and Mazar provinces to provide safe water for 32,763 people;

  • continued to renovate the infrastructure of Mirwais hospital in Kandahar.

    

 Assistance  

    

The ICRC provides assistance both to communities affected by drought and other natural disasters, and to families displaced from their villages by conflict.

During April, the ICRC distributed:

  • 1,279 food kits and 1,158 household kits to 1,279 families displaced due to conflict in 12 provinces of the southern, northern, western and central regions;

  • 26 food kits and 26 non-food kits to 26 families affected by floods in the south of Afghanistan;

  • 20,098 food kits to 20,098 drought-affected families in Muqor and Ab Qamary districts of Badghis province, western Afghanistan.

 Cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS)  

    

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 April this included:

  • the provision of 1,425 first aid kits to 902 ARCS community based first aid (CBFA) volunteers working in 22 provinces countrywide; retraining for 29 CBFA team leaders and training for 40 new volunteers in Jalalabad and Kandahar;

  • emergency assistance and shelter material for 200 ea rthquake-affected families in Nangahar.