Heavy fighting involving artillery, surface-to-surface rockets and jet aircraft has continued in Kabul for the past three months between the forces of President Rabbani and those resulting from the alliance between Prime Minister Hekmatyar and the militia leader Dostam.
The ICRC estimates that 30,000 war-wound cases have been treated in the city since the beginning of the year when the present round of fighting began.
Hospital records alone indicate at least 4,500 have been killed.
In mid-August the main medical stores were destroyed resulting in acute shortages of medical supplies. Attempts by the UN to bring a land convoy through to Kabul in early August failed when it was looted by a local commander on the eastern approaches to the city.
The ICRC is currently planning to airlift supplies into the city.
Cholera has spread throughout the city with 37,000 recorded cases by August. An estimated 440,000 people have been displaced within the city. Fighting has also taken place for control of the Salang pass to the Central Asian republics and around the city of Kunduz. Large numbers of people have fled the fighting in Kabul and settled around Jalalabad. 160,000 are living in two large camps where water supplies and the food basket are inadequate resulting in high levels of malnutrition (wasting).
The number of Afghan refugees in neighbouring Pakistan stands at approximately 60,000 which compares with a peak figure of around 3 million during the 1980s. Approximately 1.5 million remain in Iran where all but 23,000 are living amongst the local population. Repatriation efforts from Iran are being hampered by the present fighting – only 83,000 crossed over during the first nine months of 1994 compared with a target for the year of 0.3 million.
Meanwhile in other areas of the country unaffected by the fighting the UN’s rehabilitation activities continue – the mine clearance programme for instance is substantially exceeding its targets.
Though foreign involvement is an important factor in fuelling the current fighting, the role of opium-derived finance is likely to be significant. The UN Drug Control Programme estimates Afghanistan’s production to be around 3,200 tonnes making it the world’s largest producer. Much of it is now processed in laboratories in Afghanistan and moves north to Russia via the Central Asian Republics.