Afghanistan: war casualties soar in Kandahar hospital

12-10-2010 News Release

Geneva/Kabul (ICRC) – The number of war casualties taken to Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar for treatment is hitting record highs.

The hospital, which is supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), registered almost twice as many new patients with weapon-related injuries in August and September 2010 as during the same months last year – close to 1,000 compared with just over 500 during the same period in 2009.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg, as those who suffer other sorts of injuries or contract disease as an indirect result of the conflict far outnumber weapon-wounded patients," said Reto Stocker, head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul. Every day, there are mothers who bring their sick children to hospital too late because they are afraid to travel or are held up by roadblocks, and relatives who take patients home before their treatment is completed. "The result is that children die from tetanus, measles and tuberculosis – easily prevented with vaccines – while women die in childbirth and otherwise strong men succumb to simple infections," added Mr Stocker.

The deteriorating security situation is affecting the Afghan people in many ways. Last week's bombing that left eight children dead in Kandahar, like other serious recent incidents, is an example of how the conflict keeps on raging in various parts of the country.

Meanwhile, the multiplication of armed groups in all parts of Afghanistan is making the tasks faced by the ICRC all the more daunting. "Our greatest challenge consists in maintaining access to the areas hardest hit by the fighting, but the increase in the number of armed groups is making this much harder for us," said Mr Stocker. "Nevertheless, because the ICRC is engaged in dialogue with all parties to the conflict, it hopes to be able to maintain its presence among the displaced, the detained, the injured or the otherwise war-affected people of Afghanistan."

Now more than ever, there is a crucial need for health-care facilities in Afghanistan. Following many months of planning and construction, the ICRC opened a seventh prosthetic/orthotic centre in the country, in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, to address the drastic increase in the number of weapon-related amputations in southern Afghanistan.

"Patients will no longer need to make the dangerous journey to one of the six other ICRC centres in the country," said Alberto Cairo, who heads the ICRC's limb-fitting and rehabilitation programme in Afghanistan, adding that, as always, "services are free of charge and amount to a lifeline for rural communities surrounded by increasingly violent conflict." The centre employs 22 people – mostly amputees – and has a capacity to treat over 1,500 men, women and children every year.

For further information, please contact:
Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, ICRC Kabul, tel: +93 700 282 719
Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 251 93 02

Some of the Afghans who found help in the aftermath of trauma through the ICRC's medical and rehabilitation services are compellingly portrayed by New York Times writer and photographer Adam Ferguson. Series of portraits 



Operating theatre, Mirwais Hospital, Kandahar.
© ICRC / J. Powell / v-p-af-e-01596


Children's ward. Mirwais Hospital, Kandahar.
© ICRC / J. Powell / v-p-af-e-01565