An update on ICRC’s work in the country, from Afghanistan Head of Delegation Eloi Fillion: Just more than half of all Afghans need humanitarian assistance. What that really means: One in two Afghans can’t access medical care or don’t have enough food to eat. It means masses of malnourished children, people missing a limb, and freezing families on harsh winter nights all need help, but too few receiving it.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has been deeply engaged in helping Afghans in need for more than 40 years. We will continue to be deeply engaged in coming months and years.
One highly successful program the ICRC has supported the last two years is called the Hospital Resilience Program. This program has paid the salaries of 10,900 Afghan doctors, nurses and staff at 33 hospitals across the country, an area serving 26 million people. The program paid for drugs and other medical supplies, as well as running costs like electricity, ambulance services, lab tests and food for patients. Millions of Afghans have benefitted from this vital assistance.
The Hospital Resilience Program was conceived as an emergency stopgap measure intended to prevent the country’s healthcare system from collapse following the change of authority in the country in August 2021. The ICRC’s goal was to temporarily maintain the country’s secondary health to enable the authorities to organize themselves to assume responsibility for the health-care system.
A planned handover of responsibility was to occur on 31 August 2023, at which point the Afghan authorities would assume financial responsibility for all the hospitals*. This has been planned with transparency, and the health authorities have shown their willingness and determination to assume control and meet people’s health-care needs. However, we are now speaking with donors in the hope of extending certain aspects of this program. More details will be shared in due course.
Afghanistan is the ICRC’s second-largest operation in the world, and we have no plans to leave the country.
We plan to continue supporting for the foreseeable future 47 Afghanistan Red Crescent Society primary health-care centres, which have a nutrition programme. We will also work with the Afghan authorities to improve health care in places of detention, including direct support for the clinics in Kandahar Sarposa Prison and Herat Provincial Prison. We will also maintain our support for seven physical rehabilitation centres, which treat over 150,000 people with physical disabilities each year.
We will also continue to support the emergency departments in Ghazni Regional and Provincial Hospitals and Rockha District Hospital in Panjshir, and we will continue to give weapon bearers first-aid training in various provinces.
The ICRC calls on the international community and development agencies to increase their support to Afghanistan and its vital public infrastructure. Humanitarian aid is required for an overwhelming number of Afghans, many of whom have suffered for years.
*The government assumed responsibility in April 2023 for eight of the 33 supported hospitals.