The security, humanitarian and political situation in Afghanistan is set to worsen in the months ahead, the UN Secretary-General and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have warned.
“The government, security forces and population of Afghanistan, along with its international partners, face a critical test in 2009,” Ban Ki-moon wrote to the Security Council on 10 March in a report on Afghanistan made public on 16 March.
Ban’s warning has been echoed by the head of the ICRC in Afghanistan, Reto Stocker: “Humanitarian work has never been as difficult as now… 2009 will be a very difficult year for Afghanistan and its people,” he said on 17 March.
This is the first time that the UN and the ICRC have made such a bleak forecast - one that is highly relevant for the aid community.
The new US administration plans to send 17,000 additional troops to the country, but insurgents have vowed to respond with more violence.
In the year to January 2009, insecurity had increased by 75 percent compared to the same period the previous year, according to the UN.
The country faced a 40 percent increase in security incidents in 2008 compared to 2007 and warring sides killed over 2,100 civilians in 2008, the UN reported. Armed conflict also forced tens of thousands out of their homes and impeded aid workers’ access to large swathes of the country.
Civilian people have suffered the brunt of conflict casualties
Aid workers’ safety
“Insecurity will potentially continue to rise, and as asymmetric attacks increase, together with armed clashes, the safety of aid personnel will further deteriorate,” said Ban’s report.
In 2008, 31 aid workers were killed, 78 were abducted and 27 were seriously wounded in 170 security incidents, according to figures from the Afghanistan NGOs Safety Office.
Even the ICRC, which has a long history of work in the war-wracked country and maintains contacts with all warring sides, has lost access to some insecure areas.
Reto Stocker told IRIN that seeking security guarantees from warring parties had become much more difficult than before.
Almost half of the country is already inaccessible to international aid organisations and UN agencies.
“We are already dealing with a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan,” said Stocker, adding that more hostilities, inaccessibility and drought could produce further suffering for vulnerable communities.
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