Afghanistan: Real commitment to reduce civilian suffering needed from warring parties

28 November 2018

Public statement from Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):

Relentless, high-casualty attacks in Afghanistan are beating down Afghans’ morale. Civilian casualties in this country have risen for eight years in a row, with violence in 2018 killing a record number of ordinary citizens – 1,692 – in the first six months.

Decades of conflict have bedeviled Afghanistan, but during the last two years we’ve seen a worrying change: military operations conducted near populated areas. Rising attacks on health facilities and workers – 54 in the first half of 2018, a pace that will surpass 2017’s numbers – have led to a rise in diarrheal disease, polio, measles and malnutrition. Hunger is intensifying: More than 3.4 million people are estimated to be in severe need of food.

This is what happens decades into a conflict. Successive generations suffer. Business and education are interrupted. A family becomes injured or sick but can’t seek out medical care because nearby clinics have closed and it’s too far, dangerous or expensive to travel to another one. Uncertainty grows day by day.

With the goal of reducing the suffering of the civilian population, the International Committee of the Red Cross seeks support for its neutral and impartial humanitarian work from all sides of the conflict. On Tuesday I met with President Ashraf Ghani to talk about humanitarian initiatives that can have a positive impact on the people of Afghanistan.

If peace and prosperity are to make the jump from a Geneva conference room rallying cry to real life in Afghanistan, there must be a real commitment on all sides to not attack civilians, including health workers. We remain hopeful the day approaches that civilian suffering in Afghanistan diminishes; today that remains a distant dream.


For further information, please contact:


Sanela Bajrambasic, ICRC Geneva, +41 79 217 32 17