Outlook is bleak in Afghanistan

Outlook is bleak in Afghanistan - ©ICRC/VII/Nachtwey, James

Outlook is bleak in Afghanistan - ©ICRC/VII/Nachtwey, James

Our colleagues in Kabul and Geneva published an operational update yesterday. In summary, the humanitarian outlook for Afghanistan in 2012 is bleak.

The country today has better infrastructure and greater access to global markets, services and communications, especially in urban areas. But the lack of security is still a major problem in many rural areas, and communities in conflict-affected regions remain highly vulnerable.

Says Reto Stocker, our head of delegation in Kabul: "One of the most pressing issues of concern for the ICRC is the difficulties faced by rural communities trying to obtain safe access to local medical services in areas where conflict is raging. A slow-onset drought is making life precarious for people in dozens of districts in the north and west of Afghanistan," he adds. "Simple poverty is as much a factor as anything else contributing to people’s sense of vulnerability."

The proliferation of pro- and anti-government armed groups we observe in the field makes for a very unstable security environment. In addition, roads blocked by checkpoints, or sown with improvised explosive devices, as well as harassment and intimidation by the different warring parties, are part of the daily life of many Afghans living in villages. Efforts have been made to recruit and train Afghan army and police forces over the past year, and the transfer of responsibility for security from international to Afghan control is well under way. However, the country is facing a very uncertain future, with humanitarian needs still growing and donor interest likely to fade over time as the international forces withdraw.

Visits to detainees remain an important part of our work in Afghanistan. We continue to work closely with both the international and Afghan detaining authorities to ensure that they understand and live up to their responsibilities with respect to conditions, treatment, procedural safeguards and judicial guarantees for detainees under their care. Challenges remain, but an open dialogue exists with the different authorities and we have regular access to places of detention countrywide.