Change in Power Brings New Security Challenges to IRC's Aid Effort
Over the past two months the IRC has distributed hundreds of metric tons of food to vulnerable families in settlements around Mazar, Herat, Kabul and Jalalabad and new contracts with the World Food Program will lead to expanded distributions in the coming weeks.The IRC is also providing more than 500 families, uprooted by the U.S. bombings, with emergency food, shelter materials, plastic sheeting and hygiene kits. New logistics bases being set up in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran will enable the IRC to increase its distributions of food and non-food items significantly. Meanwhile, the IRC continues its water supply and sanitation programs at camps for internally displaced Afghans in all the areas where we operate. With more than 20 years experience in the region and more than 1,600 local staff on the ground, the IRC has the capacity to deliver crisis services to hundreds of thousands of Afghans in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
For Afghan refugees who have crossed into Pakistan – UNHCR estimates 135,000 have done so since September 11 – the IRC has taken the lead in providing clean water, sanitation and primary health care services along the border. Through local partner groups, the IRC also continues a series of income-generation and vocational training programs. With existing camps full, the IRC is working with UNHCR to construct a new camp that will accommodate 10,000 newly arrived Afghan refugees in the northwest tribal area of Basu. The IRC expects to complete construction of the camp and begin registering refugees on December 1.
Amid the turmoil, the IRC’s education programs for 25,000 Afghan refugee children, nearly 70% of them girls, remain in full operation. The IRC supports over 30 schools and dozens of community-based classes in refugee settlements, run by a team of mostly women teachers, trained by the IRC. In recent weeks, enrollment has increased by 10-15%. This growth indicates a worrisome trend of Afghans crossing over unmanned areas of Pakistan’s border, with war-traumatized children in need of special attention. The IRC is providing targeted activities to meet the needs of these young people and support to their families. In addition, the IRC is finalizing the relocation of its medical and health program from Hangu to Kohat, following the destruction of the Hangu facility last month by a violent mob. In spite of the temporary closure of the Hangu health complex, the IRC’s mobile health units continue to respond to emergency needs and provide primary health services in outlying settlements. High incidence of malaria, malnutrition and dysentery are being reported, rendering IRC health services all the more vital to the 130,000 refugees under its care.
Despite these and other IRC efforts, tremendous uncertainty remains as to how sustained military action and new leadership will affect the survival needs of people in and around Afghanistan. At present, the IRC anticipates that it will have to increase its $9 million budget to $16 million to meet the needs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. New resources will build up the IRC’s emergency and logistical response capacity and allow the continuation of long-standing rehabilitation programs throughout the region.