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Afghanistan: ICRC opens first-aid post in Kandahar

28-06-1995 News Release 26

 On 17 June the ICRC opened a first-aid post in Kandahar to facilitate the treatment and evacuation of the war-wounded, thus establishing a presence for the first time in south-western Afghanistan. Kandahar province has no adequate medical facilities, and severely wounded people in the area have to seek treatment at the ICRC's surgical hospital in Quetta, set up across the border in Pakistan in 1983. However, it takes at least a day to reach Quetta and in many cases the victims receive no care at all before undertaking the journey.  

The new first-aid post in Kandahar should go some way towards alleviating this problem. The Taliban militia, which controls the area, has assured the ICRC that it will facilitate the evacuation of the wounded, even during the night-time curfew imposed on Kandahar. On the day the post opened, four serious cases were taken to Quetta. The first of these was a boy of 14, Raz Mohammad, who suffered severe leg injuries when he stepped on a landmine while going to work in the fields.

 Growing number of casualties  

The fighting in recent weeks between the Taliban and government forces to the south of Kabul and Herat has claimed many victims, most of them combatants. A large number of civilians have also been

wounded, especially by mine explosions when they venture out during a lull in the fighting to work in the fields or to travel. Last year the hospital in Quetta treated a total of 906 war-wounded, whereas the level of fighting is now such that 742 victims were admitted in the first five months of this year alone. In April the ICRC was obliged to increase its surgical teams in Quetta and set up tents in the hospital compound to accommodate all the patients being brought in from Afghanistan.

 Plans to renovate hospital  

The ICRC is planning to renovate the Mirwais government hospital in Kandahar. Work should last until October, when a medical team will arrive to treat war casualties and train the necessary Afghan staff. As soon as the Mirwais hospital is operational, preparations will be made for the closure of the Quetta facility. To finance the Kandahar operation and its other traditional activities in the area (protection of detainees, cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society and spreading knowledge of international humanitarian law), the ICRC has just issued an appeal for 3.2 million Swiss francs over and above the initial budget estimate of 41.3 million francs for its work in connection with the Afghan conflict in 1995.