Humanitarian needs in Afghanistan, Pakistan not met: Red Cross


Geneva : Ahead of a large international conference on Afghanistan, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned Monday that the humanitarian needs in the region were not being met and there was growing need to protect civilians from raging violence.

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“The civilian population is bearing the brunt of the armed conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Jacques de Maio, the head of the ICRC’s South Asia operation, told reporters in Geneva.

“Too many civilians have been killed, maimed, humiliated, wounded and then not treated,” de Maio said, calling on states participating in the Hague conference Tuesday to better consider the plight of the population “as a matter of urgency”.

“There is an increasing gap between the humanitarian needs and the response by the humanitarian community in conflict affected areas” in the two countries, he added.

He also called on the sides to the armed conflicts to “take into account the humanitarian consequences of conflict” and respect the international laws of war.

The standoff at a police training centre in Lahore Monday showed that “pervasive insecurity was deeply affecting the stability of Pakistan”.

De Maio said the level of violence in recent years had reached “stunning, dramatic levels”.

While the ICRC was able to enter dangerous areas off limits to most players, which de Maio said was thanks to the organisation’s neutrality policy, he warned that the security situation in the region, particularly the tribal areas, remained poor.

This affected access for humanitarian workers, leaving many civilians, on both sides of the border, without medical services.

“Access is all but impossible in large parts of the country,” de Maio said of Afghanistan, while in some Pakistani areas there was a similar situation.

He said the new strategy being laid out by the Obama administration, to increase troop levels in Afghanistan was “not a direct threat to the ICRC”, but warned that “more combat would mean more violence, affecting more civilians”.

The ICRC has doubled its budget for the region for 2009 and is preparing to help more internally displaced people and refugees. It is currently aiding some 40,000 displaced, a number expected to surpass 100,000 this year.

De Maio stressed the Red Cross was only able to help a portion of the overall population.

The conflicts’ “impact on civilians was too high and can be minimized”,de Maio said. “We believe there is room for improvement.”