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Afghanistan: ICRC opens new prosthetic/orthotic centre in Helmand province

12-10-2010 Operational Update

The deteriorating security situation and the multiplication of armed groups throughout Afghanistan continue to affect the Afghan people in many ways. In response to increasing numbers of weapon-wounded patients, the ICRC has opened its seventh limb-fitting centre in the country, in Helmand province.

Limb-fitting and physical rehabilitation

The ICRC has been involved in limb-fitting and rehabilitation activities in Afghanistan for over 20 years. Increasingly, the organization has also been supporting the social reintegration of disabled people, ranging from landmine victims to those with a motor impairment. It runs prosthetic/orthotic centres in Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Gulbahar, Faizabad, Jalalabad and Lashkar Gah, plus a home-care service offering medical, economic and social support for patients with spinal cord injuries and their families.

In August and September, the seven ICRC centres:

  • registered over 920 new patients, including 151 amputees;
  • assisted some 11,130 patients;
  • fitted nearly 1,970 prostheses and orthotic devices;
  • held some 26,070 physiotherapy sessions;
  • granted micro-credit loans to over 100 patients to help them start their own small businesses;
  • provided vocational training for 247 patients, 30 of whom completed their training in August and September;
  • conducted almost 1,175 home visits to patients with spinal cord injuries.

Providing health care

The ICRC provides support for Sheberghan Hospital in the north of the country and Mirwais Regional Hospital in the south, both of which are run by the Ministry of Public Health. Eighteen expatriate doctors, nurses and administrative personnel are assigned to support staff at Mirwais. The ICRC also provides technical and financial support for 10 Afghan Red Crescent clinics and for community-based first-aid volunteers who deliver health care to people in conflict zones. In addition, it runs five first-aid posts.

During August and September, Mirwais and Sheberghan hospitals admitted over 6,730 inpatients and nearly 36,935 outpatients. More than 2,100 surgical operations were performed in the two hospitals. In addition, during the same period, the ICRC:

● distributed kits at the front lines for treating people injured in the fighting;
● trained 180 weapon bearers or people associated with them in first aid from between July and September;
● sponsored first-aid training for 78 new Afghan Red Crescent community-based volunteers.

Visiting places of detention and restoring family links

The ICRC regularly visits places of detention run by certain nations contributing to the NATO-commanded International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), US forces and the Afghan authorities. The aim is to monitor conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees. Last year, the ICRC also began visiting people detained by the armed opposition.

The ICRC also helps family members separated by conflict to stay in touch with one another, and endeavours to trace missing relatives with the aim of reuniting families.

During August and September, ICRC staff:

• carried out 20 visits to 15 places of detention;
• followed the individual cases of 388 detainees, visiting 131 of the detainees for the first time;
• paid the cost of transportation for 13 ex-detainees to return to their home villages;
• collected 659 and distributed 1,126 Red Cross messages, mostly between detainees and their families, with the support of the Afghan Red Crescent;
• facilitated 487 video telephone calls between families and relatives held in the US-run Parwan detention facility at Bagram airfield;
• provided transportation and other support to enable the families of 133 detainees held in the Parwan facility to visit their relatives in person.

Distributing food and seed

One of the ICRC's most important activities in Afghanistan consists in distributing aid in cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent to people displaced by armed conflict or natural disaster.

During August and September, the ICRC:

  • distributed nearly 270 metric tonnes of food for 1,864 participants in food-for-work projects;
  • distributed some 2,500 one-month food rations and nearly 2,700 essential household items to people displaced as a result of armed conflict or natural disaster in 12 provinces;
  • provided training for 57 farmers in animal health, reproduction and feeding, while maintaining a de-worming campaign within which over 8,000 animals were treated between July and September;
  • provided training for 32 farmers in saffron cultivation, and distributed 4,000 kilograms of saffron seed for cultivation in four districts in the north of the country.

Water and sanitation

ICRC water engineers are working closely with local water boards on urban and rural programmes. The organization promotes hygiene awareness in religious schools and detention centres, and with families in their homes.

During August and September, the ICRC:

  • continued to work on projects that will supply water for nearly 148,700 people in Herat, Jalalabad, Laghman (Mehtarlam), Kandahar and Balkh (Mazar
  • continued to work on projects to provide safe water for nearly 83,800 people in Kapisa, Bamyan, Herat, Farah, Faryab, Jawzjan, Balkh (Mazar) and Kandahar provinces;
  • carried out hygiene-promotion sessions for some 15,750 people in Herat, Farah, Jalalabad, Helmand (Lashkargah), Kandahar and Balkh (Mazar);
  • continued to improve the water supply and sanitary conditions for nearly 3,700 detainees in seven provincial prisons, and distributed hygiene kits to over 17,300 detainees;
  • continued renovation work at Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar.

Promoting international humanitarian law

Reminding parties to a conflict of their obligation to protect civilians is a fundamental part of the ICRC's efforts to promote compliance with international humanitarian law worldwide. The organization also spreads knowledge of international humanitarian law within civil society, government bodies and the armed forces.

During August and September, the ICRC:

  • gave presentations on international humanitarian law for the national police and the national army that were attended by over 300 personnel;
  • held briefings for community elders, members of religious circles, ICRC aid recipients, members of the Afghan Red Crescent and weapon bearers that were attended by over 575 people.

Afghanistan is the ICRC's biggest operation worldwide. The organization has 136 international and over 1,480 national staff based in its main delegation in Kabul and in five sub-delegations and 10 offices countrywide. In addition, it operates seven prosthetic/orthotic centres.

For further information, please contact:
Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, ICRC Kabul, tel: +93 700 282 719
Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 251 93 02


Orthotic centre in Kabul. 

Orthotic centre in Kabul.

Kabul, orthopaedic centre. A prosthesis being made.  

Kabul, orthopaedic centre. A prosthesis being made.
© ICRC / J. Powell / v-p-af-e-01585

Training at Mirwais hospital in Kandahar.  

Training at Mirwais hospital in Kandahar.

Ghor province, Tulak district. Relief distribution to people affected by floods. 

Ghor province, Tulak district. Relief distribution to people affected by floods.
© ICRC / A.-M. McCabe / v-p-af-e-01617