Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by British Red Cross


  Expatriate delegates are now returning to Kabul and other cities around northern Afghanistan, and are discovering that local staff have been managing to run most of the health work, and some of the relief and water sanitation projects, in the absence of delegates over these last two months. In Kabul, despite an increase in the number of patients, supplies have sufficed and the increased workload was handled well. Some water sanitation repair work was also carried out, as well as the distribution of relief supplies in both Kabul and Mazar. Drought response work in Ghor and Dar-I-Suf provinces was halted, as were detention visits around the country. It is a priority to resume these activities as soon as possible.

Main Activities Supported since 11 September:

    —  On-going support in the form of equipment, staff and supplies for 25 hospitals and 6 orthopaedic centres around Afghanistan. (Supplies were replenished by occasional truck convoys from Pakistan.)

    —  The delivery of shelter and 3 month rations to 30,000 internally displaced people around the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

    —  The distribution of food rations to 7,917 of the most vulnerable families (patients of the ICRC orthopaedic centre) in Kabul. (This work was disrupted by the destruction of the ICRC warehouses.)

    —  The provision of food (on-loan to WFP) to IDP camps around Herat.

    —  Repair work on water distribution systems in Kabul.

    —  The delivery of blankets and plastic sheeting, from Pakistan to Kabul, which were distributed immediately to people with damaged roofs and windows as a result of the bombing.

    —  The pre-positioning of food (3 month food rations for 540,000 people), shelter material (for 60,000 people) and medical material (to treat 140,000 people) in countries neighbouring Afghanistan, and the negotiation of supply lines into Afghanistan from these states.

  The above activities in Afghanistan were managed by local staff with telephone support from the expatriate delegates in neighbouring states. During the last week the operational environment in much of Afghanistan has changed dramatically, allowing the return of some expatriate delegates who are now identifying priorities for the future. The most immediate of these are:

    —  The identification and burial of the dead.

    —  The negotiation of security guarantees for aid workers.

    —  The resumption of detention visits in light of the fact that there are growing numbers of new detainees as a result of the conflict.

    —  The clarification for all parties in the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law with regards to the treatment of prisoners and civilians.

  If security guarantees are given by the United Front, then it is planned to increase the number of expatriate delegates over the coming weeks. Together with the 1,000 local staff, the priorities are as follows:

    —  To bring in and distribute the items pre-positioned in neighbouring states.

    —  To restore safe drinking water to residents in Kabul. (In the first two weeks in November, the ICRC conducted repairs on water supply systems, impacting on hundreds of thousands of people.)

    —  To provide shelter to those who have lost their homes, or have had their homes damaged, during the conflict.

    —  To identify needs in the surrounding villages where many people have sheltered over the last two months, and to review the needs of internally displaced people.

    —  To ensure that ICRC supported hospitals and medical facilities are equipped to sufficient levels.

    —  To gain access to the drought hit provinces of Ghor and Dar-I-Suf, where Red Cross/Crescent aid distributions were disrupted in September, and where over 250,000 people did not receive the aid intended for them. It may be too late to approach these provinces by the intended road routes, and as a last resort air drops and airlifts may now be necessary if these people are to be reached.


  The Federation has pursued a dual approach of supporting the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan and within Afghanistan, and supporting the Red Crescent Societies in neighbouring states to prepare to deal with a potential influx of refugees. The prior is likely to become increasingly significant in light of recent events. During these last two months the 48 Primary Health Clinics run by the Afghan Red Crescent continued to function, and supplies were replenished with help from the ICRC. The clinics continued to treat their usual patients, as well as continuing preventive health work for pregnant women and mothers. The Afghan Red Crescent also ran an Ambulance service together with the ICRC.

Main Activities Supported since 11 September:

    —  On-going support for 48 primary health clinics in Afghanistan targeted at the most vulnerable population groups.

    —  The pre-positioning of relief supplies in Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to deal with an expected influx of refugees.

    —  Support for the Iranian Red Crescent in their management of refugee/IDP camps within Afghanistan.

    —  Refugee Camp Management training for Red Crescent National Society staff.

    —  On-going work to support vulnerable communities in states neighbouring Afghanistan, such as drought response work in Tajikistan.

  The humanitarian crisis did not spill over the borders in the way originally anticipated, and some of the original plans need to be revised in light of recent events. The Federation now has the following priorities:

    —  To provide support to the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan (RCSA) to supply and run effectively the Primary Health Clinics, and if necessary adapt them to meet new needs.

    —  To help the RCSA in its restructuring and strategic planning.

    —  To continue and develop the RCSA/Federation drought response work in Afghanistan as soon as access is granted.

    —  To continue to support the Iranian Red Crescent in refugee camp management.

    —  To continue to be prepared to support refugees in Pakistan, including those refugees in the established camps.

    —  To assist in the repatriation of refugees seeking to return to Afghanistan.

    —  To agree with ICRC on the best use of relief items pre-positioned in states neighbouring Afghanistan.

    —  To recognise that the needs are also great in states surrounding Afghanistan, and that the on-going work of the Federation in these countries must also be supported.

British Red Cross

16 November 2001

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