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Afghanistan: ICRC activities January – May 2008

09-06-2008 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.

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 81 delegates and 1,171 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  

  ©ICRC / R. Ayer / AF-E-01309    
  ICRC delegation in Kabul. Waiting their turn for a tele-conference call with family members detained in the Bagram US detention facility. 

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-May 2008, ICRC staff :

  • made 105 visits to 55 places of detention holding a total of 10,300 people;

  • followed up the cases of 2,184 people who had been arrested in connection with the conflict or the security situation - 606 of whom were visited for the first time and their details registered;

  • helped 102 released detainees travel home;

  • collected more than 7,100 Red Cross messages and distributed over 6,100 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. Some 846 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 organizatio n 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. The surgical units of these hospitals have therefore been able 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 May 2008, these three hospitals treated a total of 18,764 inpatients and 96,464 outpatients and performed 7,953 operations.

The ICRC also provided hospitals in Kabul and elsewhere (Afghan National Army 400-beds hospital, Aliabad, Maiwand, Herat hospitals as well as the Central Blood Bank and Radiology Department of the MoPH) 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 accordingly supplies emergency medical and surgical equipment for administering first aid in remo te areas of the country where there are no medical facilities. From January to May, 314 emergency consignments for first-aid and pre-hospital care were sent to war wounded in remote areas of the country, where other health structures are unavailable.

 Rehabilitation for the disabled  

  ©ICRC / M. Kokic / AF-E-00798    
  Kabul, Ali Abad Orthopaedic Centre. Learning to walk again.    

The ICRC has been providing orthopaedic and rehabilitation services and helping disabled people reintegrate into the community since 1988. This has benefited not only landmine victims but also many people suffering other kinds of motor impairment. About 83,553 patients (33,206 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 May 2008, the centres:

  • registered 2,481 new patients and produced 5,893 prostheses and orthoses;

  • delivered 72,158 physiotherapy sessions;

  • granted micro credit loans to 215 patients to start their own business ventures, while 99 were trained for various jobs;

  • assisted 1,180 patients with spinal cord injuries. In Kabul alone, 1,823 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 May 2008, the organization:

  • completed two urban water supply projects in Jalalabad and Mazar benefiting 16,000 individuals;

  • continued to work on three water-supply projects in Herat, Kandahar and Maimana and four smaller projects in Bamyan which will benefit 19,000   people;

  • continued to ensure basic access to water and sanitary facilities for over 2,600 detainees in the Kabul, Kapisa, Jalalabad, Farah, Samanghan, Mazar, Sheberghan, Ser-i-Pul and Kandahar provinces;

  • made 530 public presentations on hygiene to 7,540 people in hammams, schools and mosques, and gave information and practical advice to 2,736 households;

  • continued to maintain the general infrastructure of Mirwais hospital in Kandahar 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 May 2008, this consisted of 4,775 food kits (rice, beans, ghee, salt, sugar and tea) and 3,636 non-food kits (tarpaulins, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets and soap).

These were distributed to 3,272 families (24,400 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 1,836   families (12,852 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. Between January and May 2008, ICRC staff held 72 dissemination sessions for a total of 1,891 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 34 sessions for 1,259 officers, sergeants and soldiers of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, and 33 meetings with Afghan military authorities, international mentors and legal advisors who train the national army.

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

  ©ICRC / R. Ayer / af-e-01295    
  A member of the Afghanistan Red Crescent Society conducts a mine risk education session in a primary school in the Mirbacha Kot district in Kabul.    

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

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

  • supported 65 training sessions for 1,683 Community Base First Aid volunteers;

  • supplied more than 35,329 first aid kits to 14,508 ARCS Community Base First Aid (CBFA) volunteers, retrained 1,007 CBFA team leaders and trained 676 new volunteers in Kabul and provinces;

  • held 5,980 information sessions for 59,779 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;

  • completed 16 food for work projects that benefited 6,905 families.

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 May 2008, the mine action teams held 6,074 mine risk education sessions in 2,203 locations, for 43,412 adults and 87,254 children.

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