ICRC Update: Hostilities continue to claim the lives of Afghans, international aid workers and foreigners

Ref - ComCo/KAB08E2943

- Access to remote areas remains a major problem in most parts of the country

- The ICRC response to the needs of people affected :

Dear colleagues,

The security situation in Afghanistan has worsened over the last year and a half, and the armed conflict has remained intense in 2008. Regular fighting between armed groups and national and international forces has continued in more than half of the country. Even in provinces not affected by open combat, roadside bombs and suicide bombings are regular occurrences. Early this year, fighting in the west of Afghanistan became as intense as it had been in the south, south east and east. Hostilities continue to claim the lives of Afghans, international aid workers and foreigners. Access to remote areas remains a major problem in most parts of the country. The ICRC continued to respond to the needs of people affected by the armed conflict, though security constraints still hamper humanitarian operations in many areas. At the same time, the ICRC continued to remind all those involved in the conflict of their obligations to respect civilian life and property.

In Miwais Hospital in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, the ICRC has a team of about 11 medical-health expatriates working in different sectors of the hospital with their Afghan counterparts. The ICRC is setting up emergency departments for surgery, for paediatric and medical cases.

In eastern Afghanistan, the ICRC continued to monitor the situation of the refugee families coming from Pakistan (Bajaur Agency) into Kunar Province.

The ICRC has already carried out two rounds of emergency material assistance distribution. An ICRC medical-orthopedic team has also visited the area where the refugees are staying.

In north and north-western Afghanistan, the ICRC and the Afghan Red Crescent Society are carrying out an important emergency humanitarian response in benefit of vulnerable families affected by this year's drought-food crisis.

Please find further information of the ICRC's action in Afghanistan below.

Best regards,

Graziella Leite Piccolo
Communication Coordinator
ICRC Kabul

ICRC Afghanistan Facts and Figures JANUARY-OCTOBER 2008

People Deprived of their Freedom and Restoring Family Links

The ICRC visits detainees held as a result of conflict by the Afghan authorities and international forces (US and NATO) to regularly assess the conditions of detention, the treatment of detainees and respect of fundamental judicial guarantees. It also helps families trace relatives with whom they lost contacts. It:

- carried out 284 visits in 83 places of detention holding 12,508 detainees; followed up individually 3,100 persons arrested in relation with the conflict or the security situation, of whom 1,310 were visited for the first time and registered; provided assistance to 192 released detainees to travel home;

- with support of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, it collected over 14,168 Red Cross Messages (RCMs) and distributed more than 14,221 RCMs, mostly between detainees and their families;

- started the video-teleconference program allowing for the first time detainees at US detention facility in Bagram to speak and see their family members. Until October, 1,735 video calls were made;

- started the face to face visit for detainees held in Bagram, following lengthy dialogue with the US authorities, Since October, the ICRC facilitated the access of the families of 29 detainees.

Ensuring respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL)

The internationally recognised ICRC's mandate provides for monitoring the respect of IHL by persons bearing arms. In that respect, the ICRC enters into confidential dialogue with all parties to the conflict. Alleged abuses against all persons not taking part in the hostilities are confidentially discussed with relevant authorities in an effort to prevent recurrences and to minimize the effects of war on the population. In line with its independent action, the ICRC has acted as a neutral intermediary in prison riots and has facilitated the collection of bodies from the battlefield, allowing the respective families to complete their mourning.

Health and Hospital Care

The ICRC supports and trains national health authorities at hospital level in JPHH1 in Jalalabad, Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar and Sheberghan Hospital in Jawzjan. It maintains their capacity to provide essential and quality surgical services to victims affected by the conflict or other emergencies.

In Kandahar, the ICRC, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), started to implement the Essential Package of Hospital Services.

These three hospitals:

- provided services to 42,670 in-patients and 200,100 outpatients and performed 17,218 operations;

- provided ad hoc medical supplies to hospitals such as Afghan National Army 400-beds hospital, Aliabad, Istiqlal, Infectious Diseases Hospital, Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, Geology Centre, Maiwand and Herat hospitals and the Central Blood Bank and Radiology Department at MoPH level; a war wounded kit (helps up to 50 people) is regularly pre-positioned at the MoPH for emergency events;

- provided supplies, financial support and supervision to 9 Afghan Red Crescent clinics in Afghanistan that gave consultations and provided vaccination to women and children.

War Wounded Assistance

Recalling the right of every war wounded to receive medical assistance and in line with its humanitarian action, the ICRC has provided 911 emergency consignments for first aid and pre-hospital care for war wounded in remote areas of the country, where other health structures are not available.

Rehabilitation for the Disabled

Since 1988, the ICRC has been involved in orthopedic and rehabilitation assistance and social reintegration of disabled people, from landmine victims to those with motor impairment due to any cause. Some 86,165 patients (over 33,643 amputees) have been assisted since then. The ICRC runs six orthopedic centres in Kabul, Mazar, Herat, Gulbahar, Faizabad and Jalalabad. They have a home care service for spinal cord injured patients to offer the paraplegics and their families medical, economic and social support. The centres:

- registered 5,093 new patients and made 11,773 prostheses and orthoses;

- provided 142,276 physiotherapy treatments;

- granted micro credit loans to 422 patients to start their own business, trained 203 in various jobs;

- assisted 1,246 spinal cord injured patients. In Kabul only, 3,495 homecare visits were carried out.

Water and Habitat

The ICRC's work includes re-establishing urban and rural water networks, sanitation projects and rehabilitation work in hospitals and detention places as well as hygiene promotion and environmental health training.

- urban water supply: completed one project in Jalalabad targeting 10,000 people and continued three water supply/sanitation projects in Herat and Kandahar that will target 44,000 individuals;

- rural water supply: completed four projects and continued to work on three other projects in Bamyan. these projects target about 13,000 individuals; completed a project in Mazar (4,800 individuals) and continued to work on three projects in Almar, Chemtal and Old Baghlan targeting about 29,000 individuals and one project in Kunar aimed at supplying water to 5,200 individuals;

- continued to ensure basic water and sanitation conditions in detention places in Kabul and Herat and Takhar provinces for over 3,340 detainees and completed similar work in Jalalabad, Badakhshan, Kapisa, Farah, Baghlan, Samangan, Sheberghan, Sar-e Pul and Mazar provinces for over 2,000 detainees;

- held 911 hygiene education sessions to 13,414 people in public places (hammam, school, mosque) and provided education and practical advices to 5,029 households (26,377 individuals). On the Hand Washing Day, the ICRC distributed soap for 2, 519 families;

- continued to upgrade and maintain the general infrastructure of Kandahar hospital and to maintain that of the surgical wards of Jalalabad (JPHH1).

Emergency Material Assistance

The ICRC provides emergency assistance to people displaced and living without shelter due to the armed conflict and to those severely affected by natural disasters. These are distributed to beneficiaries with the ARCS's support. The emergency assistance consisted of:

- 9,701 food kits (rice, beans, ghee, salt, sugar and tea) and 7,693 non-food kits (tarpaulins, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets and soap) to 11,341 displaced families (79,027 individuals) affected by the conflict in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Helmand provinces, in southern Afghanistan as well as in Kunar province (refugees from Pakistan) and other parts of eastern and central Afghanistan, and 1,918 families (13,426 individuals) affected by heavy snow falls and harsh cold temperatures in all parts of the country during the last winter, but particularly in the west;

- 18,945 families (132,615 individuals) affected by this year's severe drought received the same number of food kits (rice, beans, ghee, sugar, salt, and tea) in the provinces of Kunduz (10,063 families in the rain fed areas of Khanabad and Dashte Archi districts) and in Balkh (8,882 families in the rain fed areas of Chemtal and Sholgara districts).

Promotion of International Humanitarian Law (IHL)

The ICRC's mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening compliance with IHL.

The ICRC held:

- 162 dissemination sessions for 4,161 members of provincial authorities, community elders, religious circles, journalists and university students;

- 75 sessions for 2,491 officers, sergeants and soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police and 52 meetings with Afghan military authorities, international mentors and legal advisors' groups working in the ANA's training.

Cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) and Mine Risk


The ICRC assists the ARCS technically and financially to build its capacity to deliver various programmes and services to the community.


- supported 285 training sessions for 4,121 Community Based First Aid volunteers;

- provided 38,358 first aid kits to 16,956 ARCS Community Based First Aid (CBFA) volunteers, retrained 1,007 CBFA team leaders and trained 2,447 new volunteers in Kabul and provinces;

- completed 267 Food for Work projects that benefited 178,787 families;

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

- supported 6 training sessions for 63 dissemination staff; held 11,416 information sessions for 114,167 persons coming to the ARCS health clinics for treatment.

The ICRC partially supports the ARCS mine risk education program with the aim to prevent injuries and fatalities caused by mines and explosive remnants of war.

The mine action teams held:

- 14,521 Mine Risk Education sessions in 3,917 locations for 118,252 adults and 221,922 children.