Situation for Afghan civilians ‘untenable’: ICRC
Suicide attacks on places where civilians gather, roads strewn with bombs and casualties caused by international military force operations have made the first two months of 2011 one of the worst for ordinary Afghans, the non-governmental organisation said in a statement.
"People tell us that they are caught in the middle of the conflict and they don’t know which way to turn," explained the ICRC's head of delegation, Reto Stocker. "It is an untenable situation. Civilians must be protected from harm as much as possible, not become victims of the fighting."
Last month, the UN said civilian casualties hit their highest level in 2010, with more than 2,700 killed by both insurgents and the international military. Since the beginning of the year, more than 300 civilians have been killed in a number of suicide attacks on public places, including a bank, shopping centres, an army recruitment centre and a sports ground.
On Monday, a suicide bomber blew himself up at an Afghan army recruitment centre in northern Kunduz province, killing 37 people and injuring another 40.
Two operations by the International Security Assistance Force over the past few weeks also killed over 70 civilians, including women and children.
President Hamid Karzai had demanded ISAF stop military operations. Although analysts and politicians accept that it is unlikely to happen, it underscores the growing resentment in Afghanistan towards civilian casualties caused by international military forces.
Worsening security is also preventing people accessing health care and other necessary services. In some areas, local health clinics have closed, doctors and nurses have fled and village roads are blocked by checkpoints or fighting, ICRC said. The Taliban are also preventing vaccination campaigns from taking place in some provinces, such as southern Zabul where health workers wanted to vaccinate over 110,000 children against polio.
Afghanistanis the ICRC's biggest operation worldwide. It runs a number of programmes including visits to detainees, health care, rehabilitation for amputees and the disabled as well as distributing food and improving sanitation services.
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