ICRC to expand activities in Afghanistan

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Kabul, March 18 (IANS) The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will step up relief operations in Afghanistan to address the needs of war-affected communities, ICRC president Peter Maurer said on Friday.

“There are more displaced people, more war-wounded, more disabled people. Humanitarian concerns are growing, yet international attention is dwindling. It seems that the more the Afghan people suffer, the less attention there is on them,” Xinhua quoted Maurer as saying.

The international humanitarian organisation will increase its budget for Afghanistan by 10 percent this year, according to Maurer.

“We have increased our budget for Afghanistan for 2016, recognising the scale of the problem. We will explore the possibilities of further expanding our activities, including the evacuation of wounded people,” he said.

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Maurer arrived in Kabul on Monday. He met Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah besides making field trips to provinces to meet displaced people and detainees, the ICRC said.

Maurer expressed concerns over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country.

“Every indicator shows that the humanitarian situation is in a downward spiral,” he said while drawing attention to the recent increase in attacks on health facilities in Afghanistan.

Violence has been on the rise since the drawdown of the US and NATO forces over the past two years as the Afghan security forces struggle against a surge in attacks by Taliban and other anti-government fighters.

More than 3,540 civilians were killed and over 7,450 injured across the country last year, according to a report released by the UN mission in the country last month.

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The ICRC has had a permanent presence in Afghanistan since 1987. It is the aid agency’s largest operation in the world in terms of staff numbers.

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