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Afghanistan: ICRC hospital treats bomb victims during election period

18-09-2009 Operational Update

The recent elections in Afghanistan brought a spate of bombings. As well as helping treat the victims, the ICRC gave support to Afghan Red Crescent health operations and first-aid volunteers. Behind the scenes, ICRC personnel were busy promoting humanitarian law, visiting prisoners, helping disabled people to rejoin society and providing safe drinking water.

 Humanitarian situation  

Tensions in the run-up to the elections on 20 August came to a head when a bomb went off outside ISAF headquarters in Kabul on 15 August followed by another three days later, also in Kabul. A third explosion in Kandahar on the 25th killed over 40 people, including a senior member of the ICRC’s national staff. Mirwais hospital treated more than 60 casualties.

In Kandahar province, an outbreak of watery diarrhoea killed several members of one family and affected over 100 people. The illness was contained following the intervention of local medical workers and the ICRC. All warring parties agreed to facilitate the safe passage of medicines and personnel to the affected villages

 Activities during August  

 Detention visits and restoring family links  

The ICRC visits places of detention run by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, the US forces and the Afghan authorities, where it monitors conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees. The ICRC also helps family members separated by conflict to keep in touch, and responds to requests from families to trace missing relatives.

During August, ICRC protection teams:

  • visited places of detention holding over 1,400 detainees;

  • followed up on the cases of 336 detainees, 66 of whom the ICRC was visiting for the first time;

  • paid the transport costs for 11 ex-detainees to return home to their villages following their release;

  • collected over 200 Red Cross messages with the support of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), and distributed 234, most of them involving detainees and their families.

 Promoting international humanitarian law  

Reminding parties to a conflict of their obligation to protect civilians is a fundamental part of the ICRC’s work. The ICRC also promotes knowledge of IHL within civil society.

During August, ICRC delegates and national staff held:

  • 15 meetings and three briefings involving Afghan military authorities, international legal and training mentors and commanders from the international forces;

  • ten dissemination sessions for a total of 205 participants from civil society, including community elders and members of religious circles.


During August, the ICRC-supported hospitals run by the Afghan health ministry in Kandahar and Shiberghan treated 3,542 inpatients and 16,648 outpatients. Surgeons in the two hospitals performed 1,018 operations.

In addition:

  • the seven ICRC first-aid posts in the south and central regions treated 629 patients;

  • the ICRC sent 75 war wounded kits to front-line areas for the treatment of people injured during fighting, plus another two to the Ministry of Public Health in Kabul for emergency use during incidents with mass casualties. These replaced kits used following the bombing outside ISAF headquarters.

  • the ICRC provided drugs, stationery and other non-medical supplies to the ten Afghan Red Crescent clinics the organization is supporting.

 Limb-fitting and rehabilitation services  

Since 1988, the ICRC has been involved in limb-fitting and rehabilitation activities and the social reintegration of disabled people, from landmine victims to those with a motor impairment. The ICRC runs prosthetic/orthotic centres in Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Gulbahar, Faizabad and Jalalabad, and a home care service offering patients with spinal cord injuries and their families medical, economic and social support.

During August, the ICRC:

  • registered 541 new patients, of whom 78 were amputees;

  • assisted 5,605 patients in the six ICRC centres around the country;

  • made 1,012 prostheses and orthoses;

  • conducted 14,686 physiotherapy sessions;

  • granted micro-credit loans to 29 patients so they could start their own small business ventures;

  • facilitated the ongoing vocational training of 250 patients, with 29 completing their training in August;

  • made 569 home visits as part of the home care programme, which is helping 1,298 patients with spinal cord injuries and training their families.

 Water and habitat  

ICRC water engineers are working closely with the Afghan water authorities on a range of urban and rural programmes. In addition, the ICRC conducts hygiene promotion sessions in madrassas, detention centres and homes.

During August, ICRC teams:

  • continued two urban projects that will supply water to 14,100 people in Herat and Laghman;

  • carried out hygiene sessions for over 8,270 people from urban communities in Kabul, Herat, Farah, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar;

  • completed improvements to the water supply and sanitation facilities in two provincial prisons and continued similar work in one other provincial prison, for the benefit of about 840 detainees;

  • completed one rural water supply project and continued work on eight other projects in the provinces of Kabul, Bamyan, Herat, Nangarhar, Baghlan and Balkh; these projects will provide safe water for some 34,000 people;

  • continued renovation work on Mirwais hospital in Kandahar.


The ICRC delivers aid to families affected by conflict and natural disaster.

During August, the ICRC distributed:

  • 1,182 food kits (147 tonnes) containing rice, beans, ghee, sugar, salt and tea;

  • 907 household kits containing blankets, tarpaulins and toiletries;

to 1,182 conflict-affected families in six provinces of southern, eastern and central Afghanistan.

 Cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS)  

The ICRC provides the ARCS with technical and financial assistance to help it deliver services to the community and to implement a range of programmes.

During August, this included:

  • supporting seven training sessions for 145 new community-based first-aid volunteers;

  • supplying 1,833 first aid kits to 920 ARCS community-based first aid volunteers working in 22 provinces.

Afghanistan is one of the ICRC's biggest operations worldwide, with 117 delegates and around 1,336 national staff at its delegation in Kabul and in five sub-delegations and nine offices around the country.

The ICRC marked the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions on 12 August by releasing the second phase of a survey on the effect that armed conflict has on civilians. The survey covered eight countries, including Afghanistan : ICRC survey on the impact of armed conflict on civilians - views from Afghanistan  

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