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The ICRC in Afghanistan - April 2003

30-04-2003 Operational Update

Facts and figures (covering March - April 2003) on the ICRC's work for prisoners, the sick and wounded, and the civilian population; includes details on mine/UXO action and cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent.


 In accordance with its mandate, the ICRC visits detainees held in relation to the conflict by the Afghan authorities and the US forces to ensure that they are treated humanely and can communicate with their families.  

In March and April 2003, the ICRC visited some 1,370 security detainees and prisoners in 25 places of detention under the responsibility of Afghan authorities or United States forces. Of these, 124 were seen and registered for the first time. Almost 100 released detainees received assistance from the ICRC to return home.

In cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society, the ICRC forwarded 2,143 Red Cross Messages (RCMs) during March 2003, of which 1,487 were exchanged between detainees and their families.


 The ICRC has concentrated its economic security programmes in the regions most affected by conflict and drought, in the central highlands of Afghanistan.  

These programmes aim to help rural communities reduce their debts and try to bring their living standards up to pre-drought level.

An assessment team arrived in Ghor in early March for an assessment to identify up to 350,000 beneficiaries for food distribution. Unfortunately the team had to be withdrawn due to security constraints and the whole Ghor operation will be scaled down in May, with only two Afghan agronomists remaining in Chakhcharan.

In Ba myan 17,821 women received vegetable seeds. A parasite control programme for 100,000 livestock has started, with almost 33,000 animals being treated in the first few weeks.

Since the beginning of 2003 the ICRC has distributed approximately 1,300 tonnes (MT) of chickpea and flax seeds, to some 80,000 farming families (about 320,000 people) in areas south of Mazar. A parasite control programme for 150,000 livestock has also started with roughly 10,000 animals treated so far.

Floods have occurred in various parts of the country. ICRC assisted 232 families in Mazar with 50kg rice, 6 kg of oil and a cooking pot per family.

Health (covering March)  
 The ICRC's aim is to contribute to the re-establishment of an effective and efficient health system, disrupted by over 20 years of conflict, and to improve health care in 11 government hospitals throughout the country.  

Overall, the facilities assisted by the health programme in March provided health services to more than 5'600 in-patients and around 34'000 outpatients, and performed 3'098 operations.

The ICRC continues to provide regular assistance to six hospitals (Kandahar, Ghazni, Jalalabad, Bamyan and two in Kabul). This assistance consists of medicine, medical instruments and non-medical items such as fuel for generators, soap, and small maintenance work as well as support for staff.

Through delegated projects implemented by the Japanese and Finnish Red Cross societies, four more hospitals now receive regular assistance including upgrading of infrastructure, provision of medical equipment, staff training and a regular supply of renewable medical and non-medical items.

In March an additional 20 health facilities were given medical supplies.

Water and Habitat 
 One of ICRC's core tasks is to maintain access to drinking water for populations affected by conflicts. In Afghanistan this requires the maintenance and repair of urban and rural water networks, and includes sanitation projects and rehabilitation work in hospitals. Some examples:    

Rehabilitation of the water systems on five water distribution networks continues, in order to improve access to drinking water for over 500,000 people.

Reconstruction of electrical supply network to Logar Well field, which supplies water to south-east Kabul.

158 hand pumps repaired - estimated 61,000 beneficiaries.

Various projects in Ghazni and Charikar continue.

 Mazar-I-Sharif : Work continues on nine water distribution networks, expected to benefit a total of 180,000 people.

Since the beginning of this year 671 new latrines were constructed, out of a planned total of 2000. Nearly seven km of drains were cleaned.

 Herat: 503 latrines constructed and 21 repaired out of a total of 1,800 planned

Orthopaedic services 
 The ICRC has been involved in orthopaedic and rehabilitation assistance to disabled since 1988. Almost 55,000 patients (including more than 27,000 amputees) have been registered and assisted. The ICRC runs six orthopaedic centres (in Kabul, Mazar, Herat, Gulbahar, Faizabad and Jalalabad). Eight out of ten amputees assisted are mine victims (most of them civilians).  

Between January and April 2003:

New patients registered: 1,175

Limbs delivered: 847

Joints made: 1,740

Physiotherapy treatment: 25,266 

Since 1999, some 1,257 patients have benefited from micro-credit support to start up small businesses. So far this year 66 patients have received this support.

Between January and April the ICRC home care team visited 512 housebound paraplegic patients in Kabul.

Mine Action  
 The ICRC seeks to prevent incidents of injuries and fatalities caused by mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), by gathering information on the cause of accidents, the location of mines and UXO, and by encouraging the population at risk to behave prudently.  

Almost 500 mine awareness sessions were held by ICRC and ARCS teams, in 354 different locations. These were attended by a total of 14,000 people.

ICRC/ARCS interviewed and registered 144 victims of mine/UXO incidents – almost all civilians.

Meanwhile 20 ammunition clearance requests were passed on to U N-AMAC and HALO Trust. As a result 36 different types of unexploded ordnance (UXO), 21 cluster bombs and 13 fuses were found and destroyed. Two minefields were surveyed and marked for future action.

The ARCS mine awareness team has organized 653 awareness sessions in 257 places for more than 16,000 people, most of them women.

Promotion of humanitarian law 
 The ICRC's mandate is not only to aid victims of armed conflicts but also to promote the law that protects them: International Humanitarian Law (IHL) also known as the Law of Armed Conflict.  

Agreement has been reached between ICRC and senior Afghan National Army staff to commence a program of instruction on the Law of Armed Conflict late in the second quarter of 2003. 

Four general dissemination sessions were held for 311 members of armed forces, all over the country.

Two dissemination sessions were held for the police force, including members of national security, with participation of 79 officers all over the country.

Cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) 
 The ICRC, as part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, assists the Afghan Red Crescent Society technically and financially to build its capacity in various fields: grassroots assistance to the most vulnerable and services to people affected by conflict and natural disasters.   

The vocational training programme, comprising 267 individual projects, is implemented by ARCS branches throughout the country. It covers embroidery, bicycle and watch repairing and wiring. Each of the 534 trainees received 50 kg of food and basic tools were provided to the trainees.

A total number of 80 food for work programmes were completed, mostly to rehabilitate irrigation systems implemented by ARCS braches. Around 8,000 people benefited from this.

110 ARCS workers, including volunteers of the community-based first aid programme (CBFA), received basic training about the Movement, including its principles, mandate and the basics of international humanitarian law.


A total of 437 beneficiaries received shelter, food and education in the ARCS Marastoons, located in Kabul, Mazar, Herat, Kandahar and Jalalabad. These social structures are supported by ICRC and the German Red Cross.

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