News release

Afghanistan: Civilian suffering remains far too high

Kabul (ICRC) - As Eid ul-Adha is approaching, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is disheartened to see that the ongoing peace talks have not diminished the intensity of violence and its impact on civilians.

Civilian casualties remain far too high in Afghanistan, and the data from 2019 suggests that all parties to the conflict -- all sides -- must do more to prevent injuries and deaths to everyday Afghans.

Air bombardments, night raids, and attacks conducted in both rural and populated areas result in the killing and maiming of women, men, and children who had no part in the fighting. Homes, mosques, schools, markets and health care facilities are being hit.

"Too little attention is being paid to the suffering of civilians. They must be protected and respected at all times", said ICRC's head of delegation in Afghanistan, Juan-Pedro Schaerer.

Medical workers, too, must be protected and respected by all sides. Attacks against health care providers and facilities are too high, with 59 incidents in the first half of 2019. All sides must allow patients unhindered access to health services regardless of their affiliation.

Attacking a single doctor or nurse undermines life-saving healthcare for everyone. This must stop, said Schaerer.

The ICRC is also deeply concerned about the fate of people detained by all sides in relation to the conflict, regardless of the side which is holding them. Detainees must have access to health care, to basics such as clean water, clothing, and hygiene items, and contact with their families.

Though humanitarian needs continue to grow, the security situation makes it difficult for help to reach those in need of food, water, shelter and security. This year has seen the highest number of incidents involving humanitarian workers in the last few years. The ICRC in April was forced to interrupt some activities, including assistance for the wounded in difficult-to-reach places; facilitating the transfer of patients wounded in war; facilitating the transfer of battlefield dead to their families; and visiting people in detention and facilitating visits and phone calls by their families.

While the ICRC remains committed to its work in Afghanistan, it requires unhindered access to deliver urgently needed humanitarian aid for those affected by the armed conflict. According to international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need, an activity that is impartial in character.

"Even as talks between the sides continue, all parties to the conflict must do more to protect civilians, civilian property, medical workers and medical facilities," said Schaerer.

Measures now being taken to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure are not enough.

For further information, please contact:
Robin Waudo, (English), ICRC Kabul, +93729140510
Roya Musawi, (Dari and Pashto), ICRC Kabul, +93794618908
Pawel Krzysiek, (English), ICRC Asia-Pacific, +66819501270