• Send page
  • Print page

Afghanistan: ICRC activities in February 2009

01-04-2009 Operational Update

Afghanistan is one of the ICRC's biggest operations worldwide, with 96 delegates and around 1,255 national staff working at the delegation in Kabul, five sub-delegations and six offices around the country.


Humanitarian situation 

Fighting continues in all but nine of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, and the situation for the civilians affected is giving cause for extreme concern. Some sources have claimed that ‘80% of the population is sitting on the fence, trying to avoid taking sides.’ The ICRC's contacts with beneficiaries and others show that this is not the case. People are being pulled from both sides and are not'on the fence'at all, but rather lying low.

The current political turmoil does nothing to ease people’s concerns about the future. This, combined with the imminent arrival of up to 17,000 troops (mainly from the US), makes for an extremely volatile security situation   ;

The ICRC plans to step up its presence over the coming months, especially in the south. The expatriate medical team supporting staff at Mirwais regional hospital in Kandahar is set to grow from 12 to at least 15. New ICRC offices have opened in Farah in the west and Maimana in the the north-east, and work has expanded at the ICRC office in Kunduz. Additional ICRC offices are expected to open in Helmand province in the south, and Badghis in the west. An ICRC first-aid post has opened in Wardak province, in the central region, bringing the number of ICRC first-aid posts in Afghanistan to five.

Detention visits and Restoring Family Links programme (RFL) 

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 the 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 February, the ICRC:

  • made several visits to numerous places of detention holding several hundred detainees;

  • followed up the cases of 114 people after their arrest, visiting 13 of them for the first time and registering them;

  • paid the transport costs for 13 ex-detainees to return home;

  • collected over 750 Red Cross messages with the support of the Afghan Red Crescent Society and distributed over 540, most of the messages being exchanged between detainees and their families.

Families of detainees in Bagram Theatre Internment Facility made a total of 172 video calls to their detained relatives, while 37 families visited Bagram in person. The ICRC provides transport to Bagram and back for these family visits.

Promoting international humanitarian law (IHL) 

Parties to a conflict have an obligation under IHL to protect civilians, and reminding them of this is a fundamental part of the ICRC’s dissemination work worldwide. The ICRC also promotes IHL within civil society.

During February, ICRC dissemination officers conducted:

  • seven sessions on IHL for 349 members of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police;

  • four meetings with Afghan military authorities;

  • seven dissemination sessions for 156 community elders;

  • five sessions for 107 members of religious circles;

  • four sessions for 120 students;

  • nine sessions for national political authorities.


The ICRC supports hospitals throughout Afghanistan. It sends emergency supplies of surgical and other medical equipment to remote areas, to treat people wounded during the fighting.

During February, the ICRC supported:

  • the treatment of 4,070 inpatients and 19,910 outpatients in Mirwais, Shibergan and Jalalabad Hospitals;

  • 1,478 surgical operations;

  • ten ARCS clinics in southern, eastern, south-western and south-eastern Afghanistan.

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 February, rehabilitation personnel:

  • assisted 475 patients, 77 of them amputees;

  • made 1,105 prostheses and orthoses;

  • carried out 15,084 physiotherapy sessions;

  • granted micro-credit loans to 42 patients, to help them start their own businesses.

212 patients are undergoing vocational training, with 17 completing their courses in February.

The Home Care Programme is assisting 1,221 patients with spinal cord injuries. Staff made 604 home visits to help the patients and train their families

Water and habitat 

ICRC water engineers work closely with local water authorities on a range of programmes. Hygiene promotion sessions are conducted in madrassas, hammams (bath houses), other public places and in private homes.

During February, the ICRC water and habitat team:

  • ran an urban project bringing water to 12,000 people in Herat;

  • completed improvements to the water supply and sanitation in one prison and continued similar work in three others, benefiting a total of 820 detainees;

  • conducted hygiene sessions for over 3,550 people from vulnerable communities in urban areas of Herat, Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar;

  • completed the construction of private and public latrines in Farah, providing 4,000 people with improved sanitation;

  • continued to run three water supply projects in villages in Herat and Mazar provinces to provide safe water for 21,400 people;

  • continued the renovation of Mirwais hospital in Kandahar.



  • distributed emergency aid comprising 3,375 food kits and 3,286 household kits to 3,408 families displaced due to the conflict in 12 provinces of the southern, eastern, western and central regions;

  • distributed 27,350 food kits to 27,350 drought-affected families in Dasht-e Archi and Khan Abad districts (Kunduz province), Chemtal and Shulgara districts (Balkh province) and Dawlat Abad and Shirin Tagab dis tricts (Faryab province).

Cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) 

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

During February, this included supplying 775 first-aid kits to 902 ARCS Community Based First Aid (CBFA) volunteers working in 22 provinces countrywide. The kits contain basic medical and dressing materials to enable first aiders to treat minor injuries and stabilize more seriously injured patients before their transfer to hospital.

Related sections