Red Cross: "Exposure to risk has become our greatest challenge"

For security reasons, the ICRC and other NGOs are reducing their numbers in Afghanistan

Red Cross Afganistan

Leer en Español: Afganistán: ¿por qué el CICR minimizó su presencia?

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has announced that it will drastically reduce its presence in Afghanistan due to the series of attacks and abductions that have victimized the organization's staff since December 2016. Altogether, seven workers, a Spanish citizen, and six collaborators of Afghan nationality have been victims of the violence that is lived within the nation.

The announcement underscores the deterioration of security in Afghanistan. A problem that several organizations have had to deal with in said country, where the ICRC has been operating for more than 30 years while running its fourth largest humanitarian program. "Exposure to risk has become our greatest challenge and concern," says Monica Zanarelli, ICRC director in Afghanistan, at a press conference. Zanarelli also stated that evaluations are ongoing and cannot say how many of the 1,800 employees will be affected.

"We have no choice but to drastically reduce our presence in Afghanistan," Zanarelli said, adding that the decision would particularly affect operations in the north, especially in the facilities of Kunduz, Faryab and Balkh.

In the provinces, the Taliban and the Islamic State, as well as other criminal organizations, have engaged in drug trafficking and kidnappings. Due to this, they continue to gain ground as consequence of the nonparticipation of the Afghan security forces.

Zanarelli also mentioned that in a dialogue with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, "activities in other areas of the country are also under evaluation", leaving it to be seen that reduction plans could be increased if there is no change in security for the officials. If such an increase were to take place, the main victims would be the Afghans who require medical assistance.

"We have no choice but to drastically reduce our presence in Afghanistan," Zanarelli said

For Red Cross officials, the growing internal conflict has been linked to an increase in crime creating "blurred lines" among the various armed groups complicating the efforts of all the agencies present in the country. "I would say that there are more gray areas than in the past, and this is certainly what is affecting our ability to evaluate our security," Zanarelli said by emphasizing that the idea is not to leave the country completely.

For various years, the Red Cross enjoyed special status in said country. The organization worked in the areas of health, human rights, and emergency assistance. Despite the closures, it maintains nine offices open throughout the Afghan territory. The ICRC joins other non-governmental associations like Oxfam, Save the Children, and ActionAid who were forced to downsize due to the internal situation of the nation.

According to data from the United States Department of State, the Afghan government controls about 60% of the country, while the rest is divided between terrorist groups and rebels.


Prepared by Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

Source: Reuters


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