Geneva, Aug 19 | The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has appealed to international donors to step up their financial and political support for the war-torn Afghanistan, and vowed to continue its humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.
“We have been present in Afghanistan since 1987. As we speak, there is absolutely no evacuation or withdrawal. The ICRC is indeed in the country,” Christine Cipolla, the ICRC’s regional director for Asia and the Pacific, told Xinhua in an interview on Wednesday.
“I have a team there of 1,800 staff. My colleagues are deployed everywhere in the country, not only in Kabul, but in more than 10 provinces,” she said, stressing that the ICRC has “a strong mandate and willingness” to stay in the country.
Established in 1863, the ICRC, headquartered in Geneva, acts as the guardian of international humanitarian law. Its mission is to help people affected by conflict and armed violence around the world.
“At present, the situation in Kabul is quiet,” Cipolla said.
“There is no fighting in town. The same goes for the rest of the country for the time being. However, there is fear, there is anxiety, the situation is still very uncertain, particularly during this transition period where much is unknown.
“What is very much known are humanitarian needs,” she added.
The Taliban carried out a swift takeover of the country’s capital Kabul on Sunday.
On Monday, US President Joe Biden said he stood by his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, while acknowledging Kabul’s collapse came much sooner than Washington had anticipated.
Asked whether the US’ withdrawal was to blame for the return of the Taliban and the humanitarian situation on the ground, Cipolla said: “That’s more a political question on which the ICRC will not comment. What I know, however, is that the population of Afghanistan has been through tremendous suffering. We are talking about decades of war.
“The ICRC supports a number of health care centers in the country, and hospitals. Over the last nine days, in Kandahar where we’re supporting hospitals, we have seen and helped treat 4,000 people, which is a massive influx compared to previous years.
“We also have hundreds of thousands of people that have been displaced internally, and had to flee because of the fighting.
“Last but not least, the damage to infrastructure, critical infrastructure such as hospitals, electricity supply or water supply that have been damaged and will require repair.”
On Tuesday, the Taliban said it intends to form an inclusive government in Afghanistan and does not want to have any internal or external enemies.
Asked what she expected from the new government, Cipolla said: “We have contact with the Taliban leadership on our safety, on our access, but also on our way that we can continue performing in the country, we can continue being there with the people of Afghanistan in order to carry out our humanitarian work.
“Those assurances in terms of security guarantees have also been renewed from the Taliban in recent days.”
Cipolla stressed that more international financial and political support will be urgently needed in the months to come.
“Financial support will be very important. The ICRC still needs $32 million in order to work in the country,” she said.