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Afghanistan: ICRC activities, January - March 2008

04-04-2008 Operational Update

Afghanistan is one of the ICRC's biggest operations. With its main delegation in Kabul and other offices countrywide, it carries out programmes that include visiting detainees, restoring links between dispersed families, as well as health and rehabilitation projects. Overview of the latest activities.


  ©ICRC / AF-E-01278    
  A woman and child in Herat with items provided by the ICRC.    

The ICRC began helping Afghan people in 1979 from Pakistan, providing medical and surgical assistance to the war-wounded in Peshawar and Quetta. The organization has been working in Afghanistan itself since 1987. Today, with 84 delegates and 1,158 national staff, it is one of the ICRC's biggest operations. The main ICRC delegation is located in Kabul with other offices situated in Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, Gulbahar, Faizabad and Bamyan.

 People deprived of their freedom; restoring family links  

The ICRC regularly visits people held by the Afghan authorities or by international forces (US and NATO), in connection with the armed conflict, and assesses their detention conditions and treatment, and whether fundamental judicial guarantees are being respected. It also helps families restore and maintain contact with each other.

In January-March 2008, ICRC staff :

  • made 62 visits to 39 places of detention holding a total of 8,500 people;

  • followed up the cases of 1,382 people who had been arrested in connection with the conflict or the security situation - 306 of whom were visited for the first time and their details registered;

  • helped 69 released detainees travel home;

  • collected more than 4,600 Red Cross messages and distributed over 3,600 with the help of the Afghan Red Crescent Society. The vast majority of these were exchanged between detainees and their families;

  • set up a video-teleconference call programme, which allowed detainees in the US detention facility in Bagram to see and speak to their families for the first time. Almost 500 video calls were made during this period.

 Ensuring respect for the provisions of international humanitarian law  

In accordance with its international mandate, the ICRC monitors whether weapon bearers are respecting the provisions of international humanitarian law. The organization therefore enters into confidential dialogue with all parties to the conflict: Afghan national security forces, international forces and armed opposition groups.

Alleged abuses against people not participating in the hostilities are discussed with the relevant authorities in an effort to prevent recurrences and minimize the impact of war on the population. The ICRC has often acted as a neutral and independent intermediary in prison riots and has also helped to arrange the collection of bodies from the battlefield, allowing families to complete their mourning.

 Health care  

Jalalabad Public Health Hospital 1, Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar and Sheberghan Hospital in Jawzjan all benefit from ICRC support and training. This has enabled the surgical units of these hospitals to continue treating victims of the conflict and responding to other emergencies.

Work is also underway on implementation of the ICRC’s joint project with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) to ensure the provision of essential hospital services at Mirwais Hospital. Between January and March 2008, these three hospitals treated a total of 8,370 inpatients and 45,768 outpatients and performed 4,407 operations.

The ICRC also provided hospitals in Kabul and elsewhere (Afghan National Army 400-bed hospital, Aliabad and Herat hospitals, the Central Blood Bank) with medical supplies as required. Nine Afghan Red Crescent clinics in the east and south of the country received supplies and financial support. These clinics offer general consultations and vaccinations for women and children.

All combatants wounded in war have the right to medical assistance. The ICRC supplies emergency medical and surgical equipment for administering first aid in remote areas of the country where there are no medical facilities.

 Rehabilitation for the disabled  

The ICRC has been providing orthopaedic and rehabilitation services and helping d isabled people become active in the community since 1988. This has benefited not only landmine victims but also many people suffering other kinds of motor impairment. More than 82,000 patients (33,000 of them amputees) have been assisted to date.

The ICRC runs six orthopaedic centres - in Kabul, Mazar, Herat, Gulbahar, Faizabad and Jalalabad. They offer a home-care service for patients with spinal cord injuries, which provides them and their families with medical, economic and social support. Between January and March 2008, the centres:

  • registered 1,403 new patients and produced 3,240 prostheses and orthoses;

  • delivered 35,533 physiotherapy sessions;

  • granted micro credit loans to 138 patients to start their own business ventures, while 55 were trained for various jobs;

  • assisted 1,666 patients with spinal cord injuries. In Kabul alone, 1,025 home-care visits were carried out.

 Water and habitat  

As part of its work in this domain, the ICRC repairs urban and rural water networks, carries out hospital renovation and sanitation work and covers hygiene promotion and environmental health training. Between January and March 2008, the organization:

  • continued to work on five water-supply projects in Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar, Kandahar and Maimana and other smaller projects in Bamyan which will benefit 35,000   people;

  • continued to ensure basic access to water and sanitary facilities for over 2,000 detainees in the Kabul, Farah and Kandahar provinces;

  • made 336 public presentations on hygiene to 3,945 people in hammams, schools and mosques, and gave information and practical advice to 1,337 households;

  • continued to maintain the general i nfrastructure of Kandahar hospital and the surgical wards of Jalalabad Public Health Hospital 1.

 Emergency assistance  

The ICRC provides emergency assistance to people displaced by the armed conflict who do not have adequate shelter and to those who have been severely affected by natural disasters. Emergency relief is distributed in cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society. Between January and March 2008, this consisted of 3,579 food kits (rice, beans, ghee, salt, sugar and tea) and 2,108 non-food kits (tarpaulins, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets and soap).

These were distributed to 1,902 families (13,314 individuals) displaced by the conflict, in the Kandahar, Uruzgan and Helmand provinces, in southern Afghanistan and in parts of eastern and central Afghanistan, and to 1,677   families (11,739 individuals) affected by heavy snow falls and harsh temperatures all over the country but particularly in the west.

 Promotion of international humanitarian law  

The ICRC's mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and prevent suffering, by promoting compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL). Between January and March 2008, ICRC staff held 28 dissemination sessions for a total of 588 people. These included provincial authority representatives, Afghan Red Crescent Society staff and volunteers, community elders, members of religious circles, journalists and university students.

The ICRC also held 22 sessions for 846 officers, sergeants and soldiers of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, and 21 meetings with international mentors and legal advisors who train the national army.

 Cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) and mine action  

The ICRC gives the Afghan Red Crescent Society technical and financial support to boost its capacity to deliver programmes and services. In January-March 2008, the ICRC :

  • supported 371 trainees and their 181 teachers in the ICRC’s vocational training programme;

  • supported two training sessions for 51 community-based First Aid volunteers;

  • held 2,985 information sessions for 29,859 people who had come to ARCS health clinics for treatment or to the mosque to pray, with the help of 39 ARCS disseminators trained with ICRC support;

  • supplied more than 14,222 first aid kits to 10,026 ARCS volunteers and 83 team leaders who have been retrained and 76 new volunteers trained in Kabul and provinces.

The ICRC supports the Afghan Red Crescent’s mine-risk education programme, which aims to prevent injuries and deaths from mines and explosive remnants of war. Between January and March 2008, the mine action teams held 838 mine risk education sessions in 202 locations, for 6,209 adults and 12,931 children.

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