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Afghanistan - one year on

23-12-2002 Operational Update

Summary of ICRC activities from October 2001 to September 2002, and main priorities for 2003. Afghanistan continues to be the organisation's biggest operation.

 General situation  

A year after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan has kept to the political process agreed upon in December 2001 in Bonn: the new transitional government, established in June, is working to rebuild the foundations for reconstruction. With trade revived and front lines no longer isolating segments of the population, goods reach all parts of the country. Better rains have improved crop yields in some regions. Encouraged by the new outlook, well over a million refugees have returned to Afghanistan, but many of the returnees still hesitate to go back to rural areas. Outbreaks of violence highlight the fragility of the process of stabilization, and many areas have not yet recovered from the effects of the drought. .

 ICRC response  

From 1 October 2001 to 30 September 2002, the ICRC:

  • visited 7,459 detainees held in connection with the conflict, including 875 who were held by the US; followed detainees throughout the course of their detention, revisiting them in Guantanamo Bay, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan; exchanged some 10,000 Red Cross messages between detainees and their families, and helped cover costs for more than 5,000 detainees returning home after release

  • in Shiberghan prison, ensured water supply for all detainees, pro vided rations for 2,200 and therapeutic feeding for 550

  • distributed over 53,000 tonnes of food and 3,200 tonnes of seeds, along with essential household items as needed, to over a million people living in or returning to areas hardest hit by the combination of conflict and drought

  • re-established or improved the water supply for 780,000 people in five major cities and nice provincial towns

  • helped build 9,000 latrines and re-establish traditional latrine-emptying networks, repaired urban sewage systems, and gave basic health education to improve sanitation conditions for 170,000 people in urban areas

  • provided medical supplies, maintenance/reconstruction, fuel, technical assistance and in some cases, professional staff or salary support for hospitals and other health care facilities treating some 50,000 inpatients and 190,000 outpatients around the country

  • ran six rehabilitation centres which provided artificial limbs and physiotherapy for amputees (mostly mine victims) and other disabled patients such as polio victims; produced approximately 10,000 artificial limbs and joints, treated some 4,000 new patients, and provided education, job placements, and vocational training for some 500 disabled people 

  • collected data on mine injuries in communities and some 400 health facilities, transmitting information to mine action organizations enabling them to warn communities, and mark or clear contaminated sites.

 Shifting gears: adapting activities as Afghanistan changes  

As Afghanistan stabilizes, the ICRC will gradually hand responsibility for services back to the government or to other organizations geared to peacetime or development activities

In 2003, the ICRC plans to:

  • continue to visit detainees , but scale down assistance

  • turn more attention to the fate of persons who went missing in recent fighting, with the sole aim of providing their families with reliable information

  • maintain the capacity to respond to new emergencies requiring food assistance , while reducing inputs in areas where UN-supported Ministry of Agriculture rations are distributed

  • focus on agricultural assistance with a sustainable impact: continue to help the population to repair irrigation schemes, distribute seeds, and treat livestock for parasites

  • expand activities to help authorities and communities improve water supply and sanitation conditions in towns and cities

  • continue to support health care facilities , focusing on improving infrastructure and training of health care staff and maintenance teams; broaden the scope of this support to cover general hospital services

  • keep orthopaedic rehabilitation centres open, upgrading skills of technicians and promoting their recognition by the Ministry of Public Health, and open a physiotherapy facility especially for children with cerebral palsy and women

  • extend the reach and enhance the impact of mine/UXO action, increasing community participation in both data collection and the planning and implementation of preventive measures

  • develop programmes promoting IHL to military forces as well as educational i nstitutions, media and other institutions of civil society

  • continue supporting the Afghan Red Crescent Society in its   efforts to develop its operational capacity.