Afghanistan - ICRC Activities by region in the Second Quarter of 2001Mazar-i-Sharif
Economic Security & Health Programme
Emergency Relief Programme
During the last three months, the ICRC Mazar Sub-delegation focused its relief operation in the south of the Balkh and Sar-i-Pul provinces, where people are both war and drought affected. The aim has been to prevent these population of further displacements by assisting them in their home areas. The ICRC focused its assistance on internally displaced families and vulnerable persons, such as women heading a family or elderly persons.
In the middle of the month of May 2001, a total of 2,000 full rations (150 kg of Rice, 15 kg of split peas, 13,5 kg of ghee oil) were distributed to the most vulnerable people living in Keshendi and Aq Kubruq as well as the surrounding villages close to the front-line.
At the end of the month of May 2001, an ICRC team distributed 1,200 full rations in the area of Zareh that was very recently the scene of fighting between the two parties. Here again were covered internally displaced families and people fulfilling the vulnerability criteria.
In accordance to ICRC's principles of impartiality and neutrality, and if sufficient security conditions are granted by both sides, a similar relief operation aiming to assist needy and vulnerable families will be carried out in the area of Amrackh, a region currently controlled by the Northern Alliance.
Water Sanitation and Habitat Programme
Sanitary infrastructures of urban centres have been either heavily damaged by the fighting or not properly maintained for various reasons such as poor security conditions or lack of means allocated to them. Few of these infrastructures have been rehabilitated since by the various humanitarian organisations. Since a few years the ICRC has been widely involved in on-site sanitation projects in Kabul.
Time has come to launch a similar project in Mazar-i-Sharif, the largest city in the North. This programme has started in June and is implemented in district 8. The project, supported by the Swiss and Swedish Red Cross Society, aims at constructing or improving 1,500 private latrines until the end of the year 2001. So far, around 150 latrines have been built, having approximately 1,600 direct beneficiaries and 7,500 indirect ones. Besides the construction of latrines, the project integrates two other components which are the establishment of a system of night-soil collection and disposal as well as the promotion of hygiene.
The ICRC agriculture programme for the year 2001 has mainly focused on three districts: Khanabad, Dawlatabad and Charbolak. By rehabilitating irrigation systems and assisting poor farmers with crops and vegetable seeds, the ICRC seeks to fortify the agriculture output of the farmers. In the second quarter of current year 1,744 workers, all of them internally displaced, have bee n involved in cleaning and rehabilitating of 16 canals in the above mentioned districts, and received a total of 85,400 kgs of wheat grain for their labour. Furthermore 600 farmers of Khanabad district, and 200 in each of the districts of Dawlatabad and Charbolak have been provided with vegetable seeds (onion, ocra, carots) as well as with second crops seeds (season, mange bean).
If this programme tries to improve the irrigation system of the resident farming community and increase their agricultural output by free seed distribution, it also cares about the internally displaced population residing in three districts previously mentioned, as it is them who have selected for the cleaning of the irrigation infrastructure. The ICRC believes that such programmes increase the acceptability of IDP families by the resident population.
ICRC Orthopaedic centre continues to provide care for the disabled of the Northern Region. The access to the ICRC orthopaedic services is open and free of charge. In order to increase the coverage and better respond to the needs of potential disabled persons residing in remote areas, the ICRC has strengthened its referral system through the Afghan Red Crescent Society branches (ARCS). Amputees, polio cases, paraplegics and all orthopaedic deformities can be listed by the ARCS branches and be referred to Mazar Orthopaedic Centre. Trained orthopaedic technicians and physiotherapist helpers provide care for these patients in the most efficient and professional way. Despite their disability, the ICRC has been promoting sport activities such as wheelchair basketball, volleyball for amputees and table tennis. The increasing number of identified orthopaedic cases has required additional staff, means and to adapt the current infrastructure of the centre . For selected cases, accommodation can be provided.
In the last 6 months the classical set up of producing orthoses and prostheses for patients has developed and expanded to a more general social approach which aims at providing the patients with training, education or credit support enabling them to reintegrate the local social and economical environment with the required means and/or skills. Therefore, vocational training, educational assistance and micro credits programmes are currently being implemented by the ICRC in favour of disabled persons.
At present 8,373 patients are registered in Mazar-i-Sharif. Since January 2001 the social rehabilitation program has offered 13 micro credits, accepted 8 patients in the vocational training programme, supported 7 persons with education and assisted 20 paraplegics with food distributions.
The centre is open from 07:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. from Saturdays to Wednesdays and from 07:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. on Thursdays.
The ICRC still provides monthly medical supply for war wounded and emergency surgical patients to seven hospitals in Northern Afghanistan, which include Maimana Military, Maiamana Civilian and Military, Shebergan Military, Mazar Military, Pul-I-Khumri Textile, Kunduz and Talokan hospitals.
During the period of April to June 2001, the ICRC in co-operation with the authorities rehabilitated the toilets in Maimana Civilian hospital, the kitchen, the laundry and the morgue container in Pul-I-Khumri Textil hospital, the latrines in Shebergan hospital, the toilets in the female ward and the incinerator in the Mazar Military hospital.
The ICRC also supports several First Aid Posts along ac tive frontlines with limited surgical material and, through the seven assisted hospitals, with dressing material for the stabilisation of freshly war wounded patients before they are transferred to a referral hospital.
In order to respond in case of heavy influx of war wounded the ICRC medical emergency preparedness has been increased. In this regard, during the end of April, the ICRC could respond to a significant influx of war woubded in Talokan hospital.
All the medical facilities assisted by the ICRC are openly accessible and free of charge for any patient, female or male, adult or child, military or civilian, as long as they are war wounded or emergency surgical cases.
Approximately 1,500 patients have been admitted and treated in the seven ICRC supported hospitals in the North during the period of April to June 2001.
The medical team participated also to relief operations in areas bordering the front lines in order to assess the nutritional and health status of the population and to be able to evaluate in the future the impact of ICRC food distribution.
Protection of the Detainees
The ICRC Sub-delegation carries out its protection activities in the North of Afghanistan from M azar-i-Sharif. Delegates regularly visit detainees and prisons which are located in 9 different provinces throughout the North, from Faryab in the West to Takhar in the East. These visits take place on both sides of the front-lines.
The ICRC visits to detention places follow some standard procedures which are implemented world wide:
talks are held between ICRC delegates and the authorities in charge of the place of detention
a tour of the premises is performed by ICRC delegates
private talks are held between ICRC delegates and the detainees
These 3 steps and related sources of information enable the ICRC to have an objective overview of the conditions of detention prevailing in the detention place.
Information gathered during such visits are treated in an confidential manner. At the end of each visit, the ICRC seeks constructive dialogue with the authorities in charge and informs them of its observations or recommendations aiming at improving the conditions of detention, when necessary.
In the last 6 months, 18 prison visits were made throughout the region, and over 1,100 detainees were visited. So far this year 11 of these prisons have been treated against lice and scabies infestations. During this most recent three month period the ICRC has been providing assistance to the authorities for rehabilitating the well in Shiberghan Central Prison. The ICRC is also currently supporting the rehabilitation of the Mazar Minor's Reformatory Centre with sanitation and water facilities.
As with all its other programmes, the ICRC carries out its detention activities throughout Afghanistan with the same neutral and impartial methodology on both sides of the conflict.
Through Red Cross Messages (RCMs), detainees get an important opportunity to have contact with their loved ones, to send and receive messages, even if separated by a front-line. During April and June 2001, a total 51 RCMs were collected from detainees and 29 RCM replies were handed over to detainees.
As the normal means of communication have been disrupted by the conflict, the ICRC, in co-operation with local branches of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), arranges for the exchange of letters - Red Cross Messages (RCMs) - both inside Afghanistan and between Afghanistan and other countries, to re-establish contacts between separated families or friends. In the last six months, the ICRC Mazar has collected 1,535 messages from civilians and distributed 1,141. The ICRC also assists in repatriation and in the reuniting of families, even those who are separated across a front-line.
Cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society
In Afghanistan, the ICRC is working in collaboration with the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) to help the civilian population to recover from almost 20 years of conflict. In partnership with the ARCS, the ICRC runs several programmes in favour of people affected by the war or showing high degrees of vulnerability.
Through the " Food-for-Work " program, the ICRC/ARCS hire people as highly vulnerable within the afghan society and employ them in rehabilitation/construction of water related infrastructures useful for the whole community. These people receive for their labour, and after completion of the works, 5 kg of wheat grain or rice per labour day. The Food-for-Work season has started in May 2001 and the ARCS branches in the Northern Region have already presented several proposals to dig wells in draught affected areas.
Another common project is called Vocational Training Program (VTP). This program aims at transferring working skills from skilled workers to young persons in charge of vulnerable families. During the training period, both the trainees and the trainers are rewarded with 50 kg of wheat grain or rice a month. After 6 month of training, the ICRC will provide the trainee with the required tools needed to open its own small business in order to become self-sufficient and able to support his family. The ARCS branches are currently presenting their proposals regarding the VTP in their respective provinces and the programme should be starting in the following weeks.
In a country affected by war, one of the main objectives of the ICRC is to disseminate and promote International Humanitarian Law (IHL). By a more extensive awareness and respect of IHL rules, the ICRC hopes to decrease the suffering of all the actors of a conflict, for instance: wounded, combatants, detainees, and the civilian population in general.
By carrying out seminars and presentations, the ICRC hopes to inform the population about its activities and services offered to persons affected by the conflict, such as orthopaedic services, tracing activities and assistance to vulnerable people and displaced families.
In order to reach this goal in a country where the communication means are limited, the ICRC Mazar has launched also a radio program in co-operation with Radio Shariat Balkh. This short and entertaining program is being broadcast in Pashto language every Monday at 7:30 PM and every Tuesday at 09:00 AM and in Dari language every Thursday at 07:15 PM and every Friday at 11:00 AM.
Lastly ICRC Mazar did also participate in the " Memory Competition " organised and broadcast by Radio Shariat Balkh on a weekly basis. The participants had to answer questions about the ICRC, its mandate and activities and the winners have been rewarded with portable radios.