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Afghanistan: The work goes on

20-09-2001 News Release 01/37

Province de Ghor, Lashkara. Distribution of seed and food rations to the needy farmers.
© ICRC/Franco Pagetti. Ref. AF-N-00287-04


The ICRC in Afghanistan is currently focusing its efforts on assisting hospitals, clinics and first-aid centres throughout the country. In addition, its physical rehabilitation centres are treating the most urgent cases. Such critical aid can be provided thanks to the ICRC's 1,000 Afghan staff members still working in the country.

" We have enough medical supplies for another three to four weeks, " said Robert Monin, head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul, from Peshawar, in neighbouring Pakistan, where he is currently based. " For the time being we are confident that surgical and basic health care can be guaranteed in all the main cities and in more isolated areas where smaller clinics are to be found. First-aid posts are receiving a great deal of assistance from the Afghan Red Crescent Society. "

ICRC food stocks in Afghanistan are being put at the disposal of those in need, especially in Kabul and Herat, where a very high percentage of the population depends on such aid. " We are seeking to determine how this food can be distributed and assessing what supplies are available in neighbouring countries, " said Monin.

Meanwhile, the organization's expatriate staff, who temporarily withdrew to Pakistan last Sunday, are evaluating the possibilities of bringing assistance into the country, in particular from Turkmenistan, where the ICRC has an office, and Iran, where the infrastructure would facilitate operations. " Working from these two countries would greatly speed up the delivery of supplies. "

ICRC delegates are in daily touch with their colleagues in Afghanistan, who describe the population as being extremely frightened. " It's obvious from what they say that fear is mounting, " said Monin.

Increasing numbers of Afghans are heading towards the countryside or the borders. An ICRC team is currently assessing the situation in Torkham, on the Pakistani-Afghan border, so as to be able to provide assistance to those who are trying to flee the country.

" We are also maintaining contact with the authorities and we hope that we shall soon be back in Afghanistan with our colleagues, adapting our programmes to current needs and responding to what could become a humanitarian catastrophe, " added Monin.

The ICRC has been working in Afghanistan since 1980, striving to protect and assist those in need through a number of vital programmes in the areas of health, agriculture, water and sanitation, and visits to places of detention. Besides its delegation in Kabul, the ICRC has six sub-delegations or offices in other parts of the country.

Last Sunday, on the basis of its assessment of the security situation and after being informed by the Taliban authorities that they were currently unable to guarantee the safety of its staff, the ICRC decided to withdraw the last 16 expatriates – from an initial total of 70 – who were still in the country.