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Red Cross reduces presence in Afghanistan

IANS | Kabul |

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reduced its presence in militancy-hit Afghanistan following a series of attacks on its staff, the organisation announced on Monday.

Following discussions at its headquarters in Geneva, the organisation decided that there is no other option but to reduce its presence and activities in Afghanistan, said ICRC Afghanistan delegation head Monica Zanarelli in a statement issued here.

The decision came one month after a woman Spanish physiotherapist was shot dead by a patient in an ICRC hospital in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, Efe news reported.

“Since December 2016, the ICRC has been directly targeted in northern Afghanistan three times, including in what we considered one of our safest facilities, the rehabilitation centre in Mazar-e-Sharif,” she said.

“These incidents have affected not only the ICRC in Afghanistan, but the organisation as a whole,” Zanarelli added.

ICRC spokesperson Syawash Kohzad said that the reduction in operations will mainly affect the organisation in northern Afghanistan, where the Red Cross lost seven workers in armed attacks in the last nine months.

Kohzad explained that the offices in Kunduz and Faryab will be closed and will result in a serious reduction in the work and personnel in Mazar-e-Sharif.

The ICRC will try to transfer some of their operations to other entities by the middle of next year, such as those in the orthopaedic centre in Balkh, which could be transferred to other partners or the Afghan government, he said.

“This is a difficult moment for the ICRC and the staff,” said Zanarelli.