• Plight of Civilians Worsens: ICRC

Plight of Civilians Worsens: ICRC

10 October 2012

The International Committee of the Red Cross says life is getting tougher for Afghan civilians, who are caught between a rising number of armed groups and are finding it increasingly difficult to access health care.

The agency also says hardship has become more widespread, due to the economic situation, severe weather and natural disasters - and that hope for the future has been steadily declining.

Speaking in Kabul, the outgoing head of the ICRC delegation there, Reto Stocker, said he was “filled with concern”.  Over the past seven years, he noted, “local armed groups have proliferated; civilians have been caught between not just one, but multiple front lines”.

Mr Stocker also said it was becoming increasingly difficult for ordinary Afghans to access health care, adding that “There have to be some things that are off-limits, and interfering with health care is one of them.  Attacks on health care staff, vehicles and facilities cannot be considered part of the ordinary conduct of war.  Health care must remain available to everyone who needs it.  It must be provided impartially, on the basis of medical considerations only.”

On a more positive note, Mr Stocker noted that the media and civil society had become more forceful about highlighting the plight of civilians.  Over the years, he said, the ICRC has been able to raise its concerns with the various parties to the conflict in a more direct and candid manner.

“The parties have shown a greater willingness to listen to us and follow certain recommendations we have made concerning the conduct of hostilities and detention-related matters, “ he said.  “That cannot be said about every war zone in the world today.”

Source: ICRC website