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Afghanistan: Humanitarian work stepped up

28-12-2001 News Release 01/72

Geneva (ICRC) – As its access to vulnerable and isolated groups in Afghanistan has improved, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has gained a clearer picture of the most pressing needs in the country and has reviewed its operational priorities accordingly.

The first is to distribute food and other emergency relief to destitute families in rural areas of the central highlands in order to free them from the need to flee to camps. The second is continued visits to persons captured during the recent fighting. The third is the ongoing basic support for medical facilities to enable them to care for the sick and wounded. Finally, the ICRC will go on rehabilitating victims of mines and other ordnance at its limb-fitting centres across the country, all the while intensifying its work among the population to raise awareness about this danger.

With some 112,000 persons in rugged Ghor – Afghanistan's least accessible province – and 26,000in the Bamyan region, the ICRC is concentrating on those who have remained in their homes in areas of the country severely affected by decades of conflict and years of drought. Aid for these people was interrupted in mid-September, and the ICRC is now racing against the onset of winter, with the constant threat of snow blocking access to remote valleys. So far, conditions have been cold but unusually dry for the season and the organization has thus been able to distribute supplies in mountain villages.

In the cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul, ICRC staff have also been assisting thousands of destitute residents along with displaced people and those whose homes were damaged or destroyed during the recent bombing campaign.

ICRC delegates have so far visited more than 4,000 detainees in over 30 places of detention throughout Afghanistan, including about 20 being held by US forces at Kandahar airport. The organization has been requesting permission to visit, in accordance with its standard working procedures , all persons detained in connection with the conflict. This includes the possibility for delegates to discuss treatment and conditions of detention with the detainees in private. When they are being registered by the ICRC, detainees have the opportunity to write personal messages to their relatives. Once censored by the detaining authorities, these messages are dispatched to their destinations through the Red Cross / Red Crescent network.

The ICRC is also continuing to support a number of Afghan medical facilities with medical supplies and blankets, plastic sheeting, food and fuel for generators. Water-distribution systems and hand pumps are being repaired and maintained by ICRC engineers, thus making clean water available to a steadily growing number of Afghans.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Michael Kleiner, ICRC Kabul, tel. ++873 761 24 22 60