Afghanistan: volatile situation leaves many people fearful about the future

03-10-2011 Operational Update

Rising prices, precarious job security for day labourers, difficult access to health care and critical levels of insecurity are all taking a toll on ordinary people’s lives, especially in rural areas.

The ICRC has brought emergency assistance to thousands of people fleeing conflict in their villages in recent months, far more than last year. Access to health care remains difficult in many rural areas. Easily preventable diseases, such as measles, are on the rise as routine vaccination programmes are disrupted by conflict.

Here are the facts and figures for the ICRC’s operations during July and August 2011.

Visiting places of detention and restoring family links

The ICRC is mandated to monitor the conditions in which people are held and the treatment they receive in places of detention worldwide. In Afghanistan, ICRC delegates regularly visit prisons run by nations contributing to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), by US forces and by the Afghan authorities. The ICRC also helps family members separated by conflict to stay in touch with one another, and endeavours to trace missing persons.

During July and August ICRC staff:

  • carried out 27 visits to 25 places of detention;
  • monitored 509 detainees individually and visited 214 of them for the first time;
  • paid the transport costs for two ex-detainees to return to their home villages;
  • collected 2,076 Red Cross messages and distributed 1,996, mostly between detainees and their families, with the help of the Afghan Red Crescent Society;
  • facilitated 871 video telephone calls between families and their relatives held in the US-run Parwan detention facility at Bagram airfield;
  • provided transportation to enable the families of 144 detainees held in the Parwan facility to visit their loved ones in person.

Providing health care

The ICRC provides medicines and medical support to Sheberghan Hospital in the north and Mirwais Regional Hospital in the south, both of which are run by the Ministry of Public Health. Over 20 expatriate doctors, nurses and administrative personnel are supporting the staff at Mirwais. The ICRC also provides technical and financial support and medicines to 46 Afghan Red Crescent clinics, and to community-based first-aid volunteers who deliver health care to people in conflict-affected areas. In addition, the ICRC runs four first-aid posts, one in the west and three in the south.

During July and August, Mirwais and Sheberghan Hospitals admitted almost 6,400 inpatients and held nearly 31,000 outpatient consultations between them. More than 1,700 surgical operations were performed in the two hospitals.

In addition, during the same period, the ICRC:

● delivered medical supplies to the front lines to treat people injured in the fighting;
● provided first-aid training for 168 combatants, doctors, police and community-based first-aid volunteers;
● made monthly deliveries of drugs and other items to three health-care clinics in the south and east.

Providing limb-fitting and physical rehabilitation services

The ICRC runs seven prosthetic/orthotic centres which provide rehabilitation services for amputees and others with disabilities. The centres support the social reintegration of disabled people, ranging from landmine victims to those with spinal cord injuries. They also run a home-care service offering medical, economic and social support for paraplegic. The ICRC has been providing these services in Afghanistan for over 20 years.

During July and August, the seven ICRC centres:

  • registered nearly 1,250 new patients, including 182 amputees;
  • assisted 10,960 patients;
  • fitted almost 2,600 prostheses and orthotic devices;
  • held more than 32,500 physiotherapy sessions;
  • granted micro-credit loans to approximately 120 patients to help them start small business ventures;
  • provided vocational training for 226 patients, 37 of whom completed their training during this period;
  • conducted 1,171 home visits to treat patients with spinal cord injuries.

Distributing food and other aid

This remains one of the ICRC’s major activities in Afghanistan. The service comprises emergency food distribution, "food-for-work" projects and support for agriculture and livestock programmes. The ICRC provides this aid to communities displaced by conflict or natural disaster in close cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent.

During July and August, ICRC staff, together with Afghan Red Crescent staff and volunteers:

  • distributed nearly 360 tonnes of food to over 2,000 participants in food-for-work projects;
  • distributed one-month food rations and household essentials to over 20,000 people displaced by the conflict or floods;
  • trained farmers in basic veterinary skills, and vaccinated and treated over 83,000 animals in the south in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture;
  • helped hundreds of people, including many women, in the north to vaccinate their poultry.

Improving water and sanitation services

ICRC water engineers are working closely with local water boards on urban and rural projects. The organization promotes hygiene awareness in religious schools and detention centres, and with families in their homes.

During July and August, the ICRC:

  • installed pipelines and drilled wells as part of an effort to bring clean water to nearly 112,000 people in Kabul, Kandahar, and Kunduz;
  • installed hand pumps and trained people to maintain them, and upgraded spring catchments as part of an effort to bring clean water to almost 53,000 people in Parwan, Kapisa, Bamyan, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Lashkar Gah, and Kunduz provinces;
  • carried out hygiene-promotion sessions for some 36,700 people in Kabul, Herat, Farah, Laghman, Jalalabad, Kunduz and Balkh (Mazar);
  • continued to improve the water supply and sanitary conditions for nearly 2,800 detainees in three provincial prisons;
  • continued renovation work at Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar.

Promoting compliance with international humanitarian law

Reminding parties to a conflict of their obligation to protect civilians is a fundamental part of the ICRC's efforts to promote compliance with international humanitarian law worldwide. The organization also spreads knowledge of international humanitarian law within civil society, government bodies and the armed forces.

During July and August, the ICRC:

  • gave presentations on international humanitarian law to over 160 members of the Afghan national army, the Afghan national police, the armed opposition, and the National Directorate of Security;
  • held briefings for a total of 1,370 people, including community elders, members of religious circles and people receiving aid from the ICRC.

Afghanistan is the ICRC's biggest operation in terms of committed resources. The organization has nearly 1,600 national staff and 140 expatriates based in its main delegation in Kabul and in five sub-delegations and 10 offices countrywide. In addition, it operates seven prosthetic/orthotic centres.


For further information, please contact:
Jessica Barry, ICRC Kabul, tel: +93 700 282 719
Abdul Hassib Rahimi (Dari and Pashto), ICRC Kabul, tel: +93 700 276 465
Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 251 93 02


Kabul, ICRC orthopaedic centre. A young boy, who has had special shoes made to help him walk, sits with his mother. 

Kabul, ICRC orthopaedic centre. A young boy, who has had special shoes made to help him walk, sits with his mother.
© ICRC / K. Holt / v-p-af-e-01788

Kandahar, Mirwais regional hospital. 

Kandahar, Mirwais regional hospital. Both the war wounded and the chronically sick are treated at Mirwais. Patients usually arrive with a family member or relative who takes care of minor daily tasks.
© ICRC / J. Barry / v-p-af-e-01802

In a village near Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, a Red Cross message is received by the family of a detainee.  

In a village near Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, a Red Cross message is received by the family of a detainee.
© ICRC / V. Louis / v-p-af-e-00388

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