Afghanistan has been in the midst of a civil war since 1978. This has severely affected its socio-economic infrastructure and caused large scale displacement of people within and outside the country, as well as high levels of poverty. As a result, access to basic facilities like clean water, electricity and basic health care is very poor. The frequent occurrence of natural disasters like floods, droughts, earthquakes, landslides and severe winters further increase the vulnerability of an already struggling population. Discrimination among different ethnic groups and gender is widespread and a serious issue.
In this unstable situation, the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), the only local humanitarian organization in Afghanistan that supports indigenous groups nationwide, is providing assistance to the most vulnerable populations through its 34 branches spread across all provinces of the country and its active volunteers and members. The years of conflict and difficult working conditions have nevertheless also strained ARCS, which despite having achieved positive changes in recent years, is still in need of substantial capacity building.
The ARCS has been involved in an extensive strategic planning process during 2008, with technical support from the International Federation and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegates based in Kabul, New Delhi and Kuala Lumpur. It is in this context that the present ARCS programme support plan for 2009-2010 has been developed to provide needs-based services to the most vulnerable communities in the country. The four programmes of health and care, disaster management, organisational development and humanitarian values are in line with the four Global Agenda Goals. Implementation will be carried out in close collaboration with key government ministries, concerned UN agencies, and partners within the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.
In line with ARCS's disaster management strategy, the disaster management programme will attempt to address the following two main areas in disaster management: (1) community preparedness and mitigation in line with the regional disaster risk reduction initiative "Building safer communities"; and (2) strengthening disaster response and preparedness for response capacity. Both areas will contribute towards Global Agenda Goal one (reduce the number of deaths, injuries and impact from disasters). The expected outcomes will be: increased resilience and self-reliance of individuals and communities; reduced impact of disasters; and improved capacity of ARCS in terms of human, material resources, systems and procedures for effective disaster response to meet the needs of those people affected by disasters.
Under its health and care programme, the ARCS has been providing health services to vulnerable communities through its basic health centres, emergency medical units, community-based health and first aid initiatives, HIV prevention project and Marastoon (social welfare) project. The overall goal of the programme is linked with the International Federation Global Agenda Goal two (reduce the number of deaths, illness and impact from disasters and health emergencies). The expected outcomes will be "improved health status of communities and strengthened capacity to cope with health and disaster challenges". This will be achieved through: communitybased integrated health and first aid activities; increased access to curative and preventive health services; improved maternal and child health care; reduced vulnerability to HIV through preventing further infections and reducing stigma and discrimination; improved access to safe blood and improved living conditions (shelter, food and non-food) and health care for the residents of the Marastoons.
ARCS has strived to attain the characteristics of a "well-functioning national society". Important achievements so far include: revision of its constitution (now pending approval by the government); separation of governance and management; membership recruitment process; finance development process at headquarters; sustainability and core cost support (salary support); development of fundraising policy; and human resource assessment and restructuring process. The ARCS organizational development and capacity building programme is developed based on its strategic and harmonized plan. The organisational development programme seeks to lead the ARCS further towards becoming a "well-functioning national society" by developing its human resources, financial systems, branches, legal base, and management systems for youth, volunteers, members and staff.
The principles and values programme aims to address discrimination and stigmatisation in target communities based on a number of factors, thereby contributing towards Global Agenda Goal four (promote respect for diversity and human dignity, and reduce intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion). The expected outcomes of the programme will be: enhanced knowledge, understanding and application of the Fundamental Principles and values (including non-discrimination, non-violence, tolerance and respect for diversity) within the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement; increased awareness among decision makers of principles and values issues in society; and integration of principles and values into the national society's operational programmes (disaster management, health and migration).
The total budget for 2009 is CHF 5,441,177 (USD 4.97 million or EUR 3.47 million) and for 2010 is CHF 6,457,287 (USD 5.9 million or EUR 4.11 million).