Conflict no deterrent for ICRC in Afghanistan

Feb. 12, 2014 at 10:08 AM
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KABU, Afghanistan, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross said security challenges are presenting an obstacle to humanitarian work in Afghanistan but it's not deterred.

Gherardo Pontrandolfi, head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan, said the aid group was committed to working through a tough security climate to help address the needs of Afghan civilians.

"Lack of security remains a critical issue for the population and we have not seen any improvements," he said in a statement Tuesday.

NATO-led forces are preparing to end combat operations in Afghanistan this year as national forces take on greater responsibility for national security. The ICRC said it has a long history in the country and wasn't planning a drawdown of its own.

"Our intention is to remain for as long as there are needs to be addressed," he said. "Of special concern is the suffering of people living in remote, conflict-affected areas that are hard to reach."

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in its annual report, published last week, nearly 3,000 civilians were killed and more than 5,600 were injured in 2013, a 7 percent increase in civilian deaths from 2012 and a 17 percent increase in injuries.

More than half of the casualties were attributed to "anti-government elements" and 34 percent of civilian deaths were caused by improvised explosive devices deployed by militant groups.

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