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Afghanistan: Many cut off from humanitarian aid

18-04-2013 News Release 13/70

Kabul / Geneva (ICRC) – As armed conflict continues in Afghanistan, the ICRC struggles to deliver much-needed aid.

"In many areas, people cannot reach hospitals or clinics safely. And the end of winter is likely to bring renewed fighting, making the problem worse," said Gherardo Pontrandolfi, head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul. "Fighting, roadblocks, roadside bombs and a general lack of security prevent medics and humanitarian aid from reaching the sick and wounded, just when they need it most."

“For instance, on Tuesday, a mobile health unit of the Afghan Red Crescent was attacked in northern Afghanistan. Two staff members were killed and two others wounded,” Mr Pontrandolfi said. “This is a tragedy, not only for the families of the deceased, but for all those needing medical attention, because now units like these might find it even more difficult to work in certain parts of the country.”

"As international attention turns to other crises, there is a risk of the gap widening between people’s needs and the ability of Afghan and international agencies to meet those needs," Mr Pontrandolfi stated. "Health care is one of the basic services that will be affected,” Mr Pontrandolfi remarked, ”And health care is especially important during an armed conflict." He continued: "Many families depend on jobs with international organizations or organizations funded by international aid. Unemployment is already high, leaving families unable to support themselves."

"Reports from people we can reach through our offices and rehabilitation centres bear witness to the way civilians are suffering," added Mr Pontrandolfi. "We are maintaining our dialogue with the parties to the conflict, reminding them of their obligations under international humanitarian law to respect and protect civilians and their property, along with health workers, health facilities and ambulances, and to allow the sick and wounded to reach health services without undue delay."

The ICRC continues to visit detainees held by Afghan authorities and international military forces. The Parwan Detention Facility at Bagram has recently been transferred to the Afghan authorities. The ICRC is maintaining its confidential dialogue, with the previous detaining authorities and with the Afghan authorities, and continues to visit these detainees to ensure that they enjoy proper conditions of detention and humane treatment, as laid down in international laws and standards. "Under international law, any authority handing over a detainee to another authority must ensure that they will continue to enjoy adequate conditions and treatment, together with a fair judicial process," Mr Pontrandolfi emphasized.

Detainees at Parwan maintain contact with relatives through family visits facilitated by the ICRC. Mr Pontrandolfi explained: “We have also introduced a telephone system that allows families to contact relatives at Parwan. This reduces the need for them to travel in from remote areas.” Relatives can make calls from ICRC offices in Kabul, Kandahar, Khost and Kunduz, with offices in other provinces to introduce this facility soon.

Afghanistan remains the ICRC's biggest operation worldwide, with some 1800 staff deployed over 17 locations across the country.

For further information, please contact:
Robin Waudo, ICRC Kabul, tel: +93 700 282 719
Abdul Hassib Rahimi ICRC Kabul, tel: +93 700 276 465
Bijan Farnoudi, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 21 80 or +41 79 536 92 59


A patient with serious injuries after being shot in the neck. 

Mirwais Hospital, Kandahar, Afghanistan.
A patient with serious injuries after being shot in the neck.


Kabul physical rehabilitation centre, Afghanistan.
Patients wait their turn.
© ICRC / S. Maguire

A mother holds a bag of blood for her child at Mirwais Hospital, Afghanistan. 

Mirwais Hospital, Kandahar, Afghanistan.
A mother holds a bag of blood for her child.
© ICRC / S. Maguire

Patients, visitors and staff come and go in a never-ending hubbub of activity at Mirwais Hospital, Afghanistan. 

Mirwais Hospital, Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Patients, visitors and staff come and go in a never-ending hubbub of activity.
© ICRC / S. Maguire