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Afghanistan: Protecting civilians remains paramount as elections take centre stage

Source: International Committee of the Red Cross - Fri, 25 Apr 2014 01:00 GMT
Author: International Committee of the Red Cross
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Mirwais hospital. Women and children waiting for medical consultations. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / W. Carter

"Afghanistan, today, is at a crossroads, poised between decades of conflict and the hopes, of young and old alike, for a new path," said Anthony Dalziel, the ICRC's head of operations for South Asia, currently on a visit to Afghanistan.

 

One of the female wards at Mirwais hospital. / CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC /W. Carter

As much as possible, civilians exposed to conflict or other situations of violence must be protected and spared from harm – regardless of whether they be unarmed foreigners or unarmed Afghans, or of whether the harm come from an air strike, a suicide mission, a hidden mine or an attack against a lawful military target. The elections held on 5 April passed off more peacefully than many had expected.

"The protection of the civilian population will remain paramount, no matter who wins the election, or if there is a second round," said Monica Zanarelli, acting head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul. "This means ensuring that people have safe and unhindered access to basic services such as health care. Respect for medical facilities and personnel and for transport being used for medical purposes is critical, as is respect for all kinds of humanitarian work."

During the first three months of the year, the ICRC, together with the Afghan Red Crescent, continued to respond to the needs of the displaced, to support communities deprived of safe water and health care, to help family members separated by conflict to keep in touch, and to assist communities affected by natural disaster.

In a nutshell, from January to March 2014, the ICRC:

carried out 25 visits in 19 places of detention holding over 18,000 detainees;enabled families of detainees in the Afghan and US detention facilities in Parwan to make1,040 phone calls to their detained relatives, and organized more than 850 visits between relatives and detainees in Bagram; 

The ICRC supported improvement of water supplies in Surkhrud district, where many of the local community are amputees. / CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / J. Barry

registered almost 2,100 new patients at the seven ICRC physical rehabilitation centres;created job opportunities for over 1,500 people participating in cash-for-work projects;provided one-month food rations and household items for nearly 14,000 people displaced by conflict or natural disaster;briefed thousands of weapon bearers, political authorities, community elders, religious leaders, members of civil society, and people receiving aid on the mandate and work of the ICRC;maintained its support for Mirwais and Sheberghan hospitals, which admitted nearly 15,000 inpatients. Over 84,700 outpatients attended clinics. More than 4,000 operations were performed in the two hospitals;installed or renovated water supply systems to bring clean water to over 17,000 people in urban areas, and installed hand pumps and trained people to maintain them so as to provide clean water to over 115,000 people in rural areas.

For further information, please contact:Jessica Barry, ICRC Kabul, tel: +93 707 740 526Rafiullah Stanikzai, ICRC Kabul, tel: +93 788 308 908Anastasia Isyuk, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 30 23 or +41 79 251 93 02

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