Tag: Afghanistan

A dark day in the history of the Red Cross



We cannot accept attacks on aid workers, says British Red Cross chief executive Mike Adamson. 

I received a message around lunchtime yesterday informing me that six of our colleagues from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had been killed in Afghanistan in an apparent deliberate attack by unknown armed men. Two colleagues are still unaccounted for.

A matter of hours later I was told that one of our aid distribution centres, near Aleppo, Syria, had also been attacked. One staff member from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) was killed. Two other people, who had come to the centre to receive aid, were also killed.

These developments highlight a profoundly worrying escalation in loss of life of humanitarian workers. They risk marking the moment that the death of people who should be protected under the international rules of war became the norm. We cannot accept that.


The power of a gran in Afghanistan


Three women wearing Afghan Red Crescent pinneys and holding drawings of a mother and child sit on the floor in a row

If you were a granny in Afghanistan, you would be one of the most influential and respected members of your community.

“Afghan grandmothers are valued authority figures,” said Justin Dell, Afghanistan country manager at the British Red Cross.

“Many younger women in rural communities have to do what others tell them to do, particularly their fathers or husbands.

“But everyone will listen to grandmothers and follow their advice.

“This includes men, many of whom are the women’s own husbands, sons or sons-in-law.”


Child safety, Afghan style


Three girls play as they pump water from a well

In the UK, keeping children safe means babyproofing your home or teaching youngsters to look both ways before crossing the road.

In Afghanistan, it could mean stopping children dying from diseases picked up from human waste.

More than just a nuisance

For most people in Britain, diarrhoea is a nuisance that can be easily treated. If a child is very badly affected, care is always available.

But in some countries, diarrhoea is life threatening.

Nearly 1.3 million children under five die from diarrhoea worldwide, making it the second most common cause of child deaths.

In fact, over half of these deaths occur in just five countries. Afghanistan is one of them.

What makes this even sadder is that children’s lives could be saved if communities had clean water, toilets and hand-washing facilities.


Listen: what if it were your son crossing the Mediterranean?


A couple of Gulawi’s friends took their own lives, after claiming asylum in the UK. He says it was down to their treatment.

Gulawi now has strong feelings on how to make the world a better place – starting with kindness, compassion, and really knowing all the refugee facts.

Here are his thoughts.


In-depth report: healthier villages and safer births in Afghanistan

A man holds up a piece of paper to a group of other men

Sharing health information in Afghanistan ©ARCS

A British Red Cross-funded programme is bringing clean water, sanitary latrines and vital health information to villages in rural Afghanistan. Read our in-depth report and find out:

  • who’s keeping dozens of new wells in working order 
  • how planning can save lives even when hospitals are miles away
  • and how groups of grandmothers deliver safer pregnancies for their families and neighbours More

World Water Day: drink and think about life in Afghanistan


I had a great shower this morning. Showers are the best in my book – I’m definitely not a bath person. And when it comes to drinking water, I prefer still to sparkling. As for toilets, I’ve done enough travel through Africa to tell you I like mine with a fully functional flushing system and with no squatting necessary.

Some may think I’m a tad fussy. In fact I couldn’t really blame one third of the world’s population for calling me a bit of a diva. Because a lack of water to meet basic daily needs affects an unbelievable one in three people on every continent of the globe.*


Today, on World Water Day, I’m asking you to think about every time you use or consume water. How easy is it for you to access water? How much do you use throughout your day? And every time you turn on a tap, buy a drink or flush the loo, think about the difference between your day and that of the men and women of Afghanistan.

Because in this country that’s been rocked by decades of conflict, 82 per cent of people in rural areas and 67 per cent of urban populations do not have access to safe drinking water. Meanwhile, over 90 per cent of the rural population and almost 70 per cent of urban dwellers do not have access to safe sanitation facilities.**

As a result there are high rates of diarrhoea and dysentery, which can be fatal without the proper treatment, especially for the vulnerable such as young children and the elderly.

However, an Afghan Red Crescent Society community-based health programme, which has been running for three years, is beginning to see huge improvements in people’s health.

This programme, which is supported by the British Red Cross, is a first for Afghanistan in that other projects are typically focused on a single issue. But here, staff and volunteers from villages in Balkh province are working across the areas of health, hygiene, water and sanitation.

Red Cross built well in Afghanistan

The involvement and ownership of community members in various activities, such as health and hygiene promotion campaigns is key to the success of the programme. We are now seeing improved access to safe drinking water, sanitation facilities and increasingly positive health and hygiene practices throughout the community.

Around 240 volunteers have been recruited from the villages and one of the most progressive and exciting aspects of the programme is the fact that 50 per cent of these are women. Recruiting female workers in Afghan society can be a major challenge due to conservatism.

In each village a Shora (health committee) is set up and plays a vital role in establishing the needs of the village, supporting health and hygiene promotion campaigns and ensuring the maintenance of the wells and latrines.

So far 43 wells have been built, 192 latrines constructed and 12 mechanics trained in maintaining and repairing the facilities.


Mohammad Achbar, 28, from Deh Hasan village, said: “I have four children – the youngest is three years and the oldest 12 years. Thirteen months ago I heard about the Red Crescent project which digs wells and builds latrines and I’ve found it very good.

“In the past we had to go to the toilet in the open. Now we have a latrine, the door and windows are closed and there are no flies. Our health is improving.

“Also, before we used a shallow well with two buckets on a looped rope. I would transport the water myself in a jerry can. But with the improved well it’s quicker and I have more time. We now have access to clean water and it is always ready immediately.

“We had a discussion in our community about where the latrines and wells would be located and the decisions were made peacefully.”

The programme is making a huge difference and the older generation particularly appreciate the construction of wells, as they previously struggled to travel 2 km or so to collect water in iron buckets. Also, as communities’ access to clean drinking water and sanitary latrines improve, so water-borne diseases, particularly diarrhoea, greatly decrease.

In a country which receives a lot of bad press, this is a positive story about a programme which is giving people back their dignity.

Visit our website for further information on Afghanistan

*World Health Organisation

Image 1 © IFRC

Images 2 & 3 © Greg Rose

Monday Movement update #22


It’s been an incredibly busy week for Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers around the world. Here’s your weekly update on what different members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement* are doing.

A boy is rescued from floodsPhilippines typhoons and floods: The Philippines has been hit by two typhoons in the past week. The Philippines Red Cross opened 130 evacuation centres where around 75,000 survivors are receiving safe shelter, hot meals and blankets. Volunteers carried out search and rescue operations after Typhoon Ketsana and saved more than 400 people from rooftops and high walls during severe flooding. The DEC has launched an appeal.

Vietnam typhoon and floods: Typhoon Ketsana hit the central coast of Vietnam on 29 September. Volunteers evacuated 160,000 people before it hit, but 150,000 people are displaced from their homes. The DEC has launched an appeal.

Samoan islands and Tonga tsunami: Read Rosemarie North’s diary about how people in the Pacific islands are coping, with the help of the Samoa Red Cross, after an earthquake caused devastating tsunamis on 29 September. The British Red Cross has launched an appeal for donations.