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Afghanistan: a people trapped between sides / Bevölkerung zwischen den Fronten

Pressemitteilung des Internationalen Roten Kreuzes / ICRC: Press Release

Einen Tag bevor US-Präsident seinen Afghanistan/Pakistan-Jahresbericht vorlegen wollte, meldete sich das Internationale Rote Kreuz zu Wort. In einer Pressemitteilung, die wir im Folgenden dokumentieren, heißt es, dass das Jahr 2010 das tödlichste Jahr seit Beginn des Krieges 2001 gewesen sei. Die Bedingungen, unter denen die Hilfsorganisationen arbeiten müssten, seien die schlimmsten seit 30 Jahren. Auch im kommenden Jahr sei eher mit einer Steigerung der Kampftätigkeiten zu rechnen. Reuters verbreitete die Meldung des Roten Kreuzes unter der Schlagzeile: "Red Cross Paints Grim Afghan Picture Before Review".
Diese Einschätzung steht den Verheißungen der US-Administration und der deutschen Bundesregierung diametral gegenüber. Sie rechnen mit einer Trendwende 2011, sodass planmäßig Mitte des kommenden Jahres (US-Truppen) bzw. Ende 2011/2012 (Bundeswehr) mit dem Abzug bestimmter Kontingente begonnen werden könne.
Im Folgenden dokumentieren wir den Bericht des ICRC.

Afghanistan: a people trapped between sides

Geneva/Kabul (ICRC) – The main conflict-related challenges faced by Afghans in 2010 will persist in 2011, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today. According to the ICRC, those challenges are civilian casualties, internal displacement, and insufficient access to medical care, all of which are occurring against the background of a proliferation of armed groups.

"In a growing number of areas in the country, we are entering a new, rather murky phase in the conflict in which the proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of humanitarian organizations to reach the people who need their help,"
said Reto Stocker, head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan. "One armed group may demand food and shelter in the evening, then, the next morning, another may demand to know why its enemy was given sanctuary." The emerging groups, which also include criminals, remain difficult to identify.

"Many people see fleeing as their only solution and many end up in camps for the displaced or with relatives in neighbouring districts,"
said Mr Stocker. Together with its partner organization, the Afghan Red Crescent Society, the ICRC has provided just over 140,000 people throughout the country with food and other items since January 2010. Rural and urban water projects gave 412,000 people access to safe water.

As the conflict has intensified and expanded geographically, civilian casualties have once again increased in comparison with previous years. Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar, serving around four million people, has admitted over 2,650 weapon-wounded patients so far in 2010, compared with just over 2,100 in 2009. The seven ICRC prosthetic/orthotic centres have fitted close to 4,000 new patients with prostheses so far this year. Many of them lost their limbs as a result of fighting.

"The ICRC maintains a constant dialogue with the armed opposition, the Afghan national security forces and the international military forces on concerns relating to detention and the conduct of hostilities. This dialogue is confidential, yet frank and direct when it needs to be,"
said Mr Stocker. So far this year, the ICRC has followed the individual cases of over 2,630 detainees throughout the country held by international or Afghan authorities to monitor the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive, to ensure that procedural safeguards are met and to enable the detainees to restore or maintain contact with their families. Over 2,000 people took advantage of the opportunity to maintain ties with other family members through video telephone calls, Red Cross messages or ICRC-organized visits to places of detention.

The ICRC frequently receives reports of local medical staff who have been threatened while performing their tasks, and of patients either prevented from or delayed in reaching health-care facilities despite the fact that both are protected under international humanitarian law.

"The number of mothers coming in with children dying from easily preventable diseases such as measles or chronic diarrhoea is staggering," said Dr Bart de Poorter, an ICRC health coordinator working in Afghanistan. "But what doctor or vaccinator is brave enough to venture into rural areas given the appalling lack of security and the lack of respect for medical staff?"

Among the essential principles of international humanitarian law is the requirement that persons not taking part in hostilities be treated with humanity in all circumstances.

"The humanitarian principles that we have insisted on constantly in the past decade are as relevant, if not more so, than ever," said Mr Stocker. "In today's Afghanistan, it unfortunately remains urgent and necessary to abstain from attacks against civilians, to spare medical services and to ensure that detainees receive decent treatment."

Afghanistan, where the ICRC has been working since 1979, is the site of the organization's largest operation worldwide with over 1,750 staff based in 15 offices, and a budget for 2011 of 89 million US dollars.

* Source: Website of the ICRC, 15-12-2010; www.icrc.org

The ICRC in Afghanistan

Opened in 1987 the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan focuses on: protecting detainees and helping them maintain contact with their families; monitoring the conduct of hostilities and working to prevent IHL violations; acting as a neutral intermediary in enabling humanitarian services across frontlines; assisting the wounded and disabled; supporting hospital care; improving water and sanitation services; promoting IHL; and strengthening the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS).

The conflict between armed groups and national and international forces in Afghanistan is intensifying and spreading, with fighting occurring regularly in over half of the country. This has led to ever increasing civilian casualties and burgeoning humanitarian needs. Even in provinces not affected by open warfare, roadside and suicide bombs as well as air strikes or night raids are commonplace. While the south and the south-east remain the most conflict-prone region, the security situation has also deteriorated in eastern and north-western provinces.

The armed conflict is continuing to worsen the humanitarian situation for the Afghan population. Meanwhile, the volatile security situation and the fact that much of the country remains out of bounds are making it increasingly difficult for humanitarian actors to reach out to people in need. Nevertheless, the organization has managed to extend its presence, including in the worst-affected provinces. In 2009 it opened new offices in Farah, Ghazni, Lashkar Gah, Maymana and Qala-i-Nau.

ICRC delegates collect specific allegations of abuses or IHL violations and make confidential representations to the parties to the conflict with a view to preventing the recurrence of such violations. They also remind the authorities and weapon bearers of their obligations under IHL, particularly regarding the conduct of hostilities and the duty to protect people not or no longer participating in the fighting.

Visits to people detained by the Afghan authorities, the International Security and Assistance Force or the United States-led coalition – in order to monitor their treatment and living conditions and respect for their judicial guarantees – remain a top priority, along with efforts to restore or maintain links between members of families separated by years of armed conflict. Furthermore, the ICRC offers its expertise on prison infrastructure to help the Afghan authorities to rehabilitate prisons and improve inmates’ health and hygiene.

The ICRC and the Afghan Red Crescent distribute food and essential household items to families displaced by the conflict and give food and livelihood support to conflict-affected civilians. The ICRC also runs food-for-work programmes in which villagers help to upgrade irrigation systems benefiting the entire community. Working with urban and rural water boards, the organization improves water quality and sanitation.

The ICRC and the Afghan Red Crescent provide medical assistance to the growing numbers of conflict casualties. Alongside, the ICRC supports Afghan Red Crescent primary health care centres in conflict-affected provinces. ICRC-run or -supplied physical rehabilitation centres provide services to the disabled.

The teaching and promotion of international humanitarian law among weapon bearers and the Afghan State, as well as the strengthening of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, count among ICRC activities in Afghanistan.

* Source: Website of the ICRC, 29-10-2010; www.icrc.org

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