Afghanistan is recurrently hit by natural disasters causing losses to lives, livelihoods and property. In recent decades, this has led to massive problems of food insecurity and population exodus from the worst hit areas. From 1954 to 2006, the country has experienced 118 large-scale disasters (UNDP, NDMP Report 2010), with a total number of persons killed estimated at 22,000 and the affected persons estimated around 11 million. With almost three decades of conflict, the vulnerability of the people has been heightened. In the recent past, the country experienced a series of disasters – the Baghlan Earthquake, the avalanches in north Badakshan region, sandstorms in Farah, floods and landslides in central provinces and a prolonged drought.
The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) as a national society in Afghanistan, has responded to disasters in all over the country since its inception in 1934 through its humanitarian services considering the seventh accepted principles of the movement (Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary services, Unity, Universality). However, in 1997, on the basis of the level of its responding to disaster through its disaster management, it has been widely recognized as the disaster management in the country, delivering humanitarian assistance to affected communities.
The ARCS-DM is designed to reduce the impact of disasters on vulnerable communities and to strengthen community disaster preparedness capacity, coping mechanisms and hazard awareness. The program places great emphasis on risk reduction strategies at the community level. It also requires action at the national level to ensure a coherent coordination mechanism and proper implementation of disaster management program efforts within the overall framework of the recovery and development. The preparedness element of the program is vital as most humanitarian agencies including the government’s department for disaster preparedness, function on a response-oriented level for gaining better recognition through the Government and the people of Afghanistan.
The ARCS-DM, having a nation-wide coverage through 34 provincial branches and a national network of volunteers, is capable for the implementation large-scale and long-term preparedness and response programs. Through all the years of conflict, it has consistently provided assistance to multitude of vulnerable Afghans in all over the country. A comprehensive and strong disaster management structure is one of the key issues that will greatly enhance the ARCS capacity to prepare and respond to disaster effectively along with reducing the impact of disasters on vulnerable communities.
ARCS-DM Mission Statement
ARCS Disaster Management provides neutral and impartial humanitarian assistance to disaster impacted communities. Staff and volunteers work through a country-wide network to ensure appropriate, timely and effective risk reduction, preparedness and response actions. When called upon, ARCS supports sister National Societies’ disaster response needs.
Programs and activities
Disaster response continues to represent the largest portion of ARCS response activities to assist thousands of affected people annually ranging from internal displaced people to victims of natural disasters.
The sharp increase in the number of natural disasters countrywide in recent years has prompted the ARCS-DM to devote more attention to Disaster preparedness activities, aiming to make the Afghan Red Crescent Societies and communities more aware of the risks they face, enabling them how to reduce their vulnerability, and to empower them how to cope when disaster strikes their communities.
Armed conflict and poverty, flooding and drought, earthquakes and epidemic disease have affected hundreds of people in the past. The impact is high; leaving people traumatized by the death of family and friends, their lives devastated by the loss of homes, properties and food stocks.
Disasters have caused about 10% internal displacement in Afghanistan. As it causes that economic is decreased, infrastructures are damaged and the community goes to further poverty.
As a result, the impact of disasters has increased dramatically in the last few decades in terms of the number of people affected. This trend is expected to keep rising in coming years.
Afghanistan is mostly prone to droughts, floods, avalanches, earthquake and other natural calamities. Among all the provinces, 6 provinces are said to be very high winter risk -prone areas. And 6 provinces are the high flood risk-prone areas.
Among all the disasters that occur in Afghanistan, floods are the most frequent and devastating which cause too much damages to the people in the different disaster prone areas.
Another killer risk is the landslides -the most dangerous and tragic in Afghanistan. As the most families in Afghanistan live in the hills and in the areas that are mostly threated by the landslides, so they are all the most vulnerable people and need more relief and humanitarian assistance.
One of the biggest relief activities of the ARCS-DM was in 2008 through which 80,000 food kits have been distributed into two rounds to affected families in the north, north east and north west of Afghanistan in the most drought affected and insecure areas.
Recovery activities continue until all systems return to normal or better after the disaster happens. Currently, Disaster Recovery measures short term supports including returning vital life support systems to minimum operating standards, temporary housing, public information, health and safety education, reconstruction and counseling new supportive programs.
Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction (CBDRR)
A process of disaster risk management in which at-risk communities are actively engaged in the identification, analysis, treatment, monitoring and evaluation on disaster risks in order to reduce their vulnerabilities and enhance their capacities. This means that people are the key points in decision making and in the implementation of disaster risk reduction activities.
All the activities in this process are done on the basis of a conceptual framework of elements according to the possibilities and resources through the ARCS-DM to minimize vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout a vulnerable community, to avoid [prevention] or to limit [mitigation and preparedness] the adverse impacts of hazards within the broad context of sustainable development.
Disaster Preparedness (DP)
Preparedness actions are done as advance measures through the ARCS-DM in a close partnership with the IFRC to establish community capacities and mechanisms to minimize adverse impacts of disasters when occurring. The emergency management team, community officials and the general public must be able to react promptly and effectively in the event of a disaster incident or emergency since there is often no warning and preservation of life, depending on prior preventive policy actions and rapid decision making.
Preparedness can assist in various ways such as: updating resource inventories, identifying equipment needs, creating task forces, drawing up action plans, creating a state of alert/public awareness, reviewing the emergency operation plans for comprehensiveness, reviewing of response readiness for personnel, carrying out the orientation, drills, table top, functional and full-scale exercises.
Community Based Disaster Preparedness (CBDP)
The purpose of CBDP program which is run along with the cooperation of the IFRC, is institutional strengthening, training and knowledge sharing through the establishment of a Disaster Management structure and programs for strengthening and expanding community based disaster preparedness (CBDP) in disaster affected areas. Also, it Identifies volunteers in disaster prone areas, arranges CBDP trainings, and establishes Disaster Preparedness committees.
The main target of this program is to enable the community how to struggle against the disaster striking and to empower the community to cope with the disaster to avoid more damages.
Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs)
Through this program indicating and recording hundreds of IDP families due to disasters at the community level in order to provide effective services in close coordination with all involved agencies.
The main target of this program is to help and support those families who are mostly affected from the disaster and who are displaced from their won living areas. Sheltering and medication are the key activities that are implemented through this program to displaced families.
This program is mainly focusing on the following activities:
• Focused effort to address the problem of IDPs during the emergency response
• Assist in provision of relief items for IDPs and taking steps for their deportation.
• Sheltering and medication to IDPs
Restoring family link (RFL):
Transferring human remains, locating people, exchanging messages…
Conflict and disaster separate families, leading to years of uncertainty about the fate of a relative. So, The ARCS-DM in joint cooperation with ICRC aims to locate people, exchange messages, reunite families and clarify the fate of missing persons.
As per International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the parties to an armed conflict have responsibilities regarding the remains or persons who die as a result of the conflict the overall objective to respect the families’ rights to know the fate if their loved ones, the possibility to mourn and to solve legal/economic challenges
In Afghanistan, the ICRC has developed its cooperation with the ARCS in order to provide a purely humanitarian service in the field of human remains management.
As a result and whenever circumstances permit each party to the conflict must, without delay, take all possible measures to search for, collect and evacuate the dead without adverse distinction. In practice and in most cases, the parties to the conflict manage to collect their dead. In addition, local communities inhume bodies after the righting and injured civilians may be evacuated.
However, in specific cases, the ARCS and ICRC may serve as neutral intermediaries to transfer human remains and hand them to their communities and families.
This project description aims in providing a base for this joint activity, improving coordination and establishing a frame for financial and administrative matters.
For More Information Regarding ARCS Disaster Management Policy Click Here: http://redcrescent.af/upload/English%20Policy.pdf
For More Information Regarding ARCS Disaster Management Strategic Plan Click Here:http://redcrescent.af/upload/English%20Layout.pdf
Restore Family Links
Afghan Red Crescent Society is a neutral national aid organization. The ARCS tracing activities are carried out at the level of provincial branches by one tracing in charge based in each ARCS branch.
The cooperation in RFL activities between ICRC and ARCS started when the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) started exchanging RCMs between detainees and their families in 1987 in Kabul. The ARCS Tracing Section was established in the framework of the ARCS in 1997 (1376) with the support of ICRC. The ARCS Tracing Section offers the following RFL services to the beneficiaries:
Red Cross Messages
Since the establishment of the Tracing section, the tracing staff of the national society have distributed and collected thousands of RCMs from/to the families, refugees, and IDPs across the country. The family members can exchange only personal and family news, RCMs with reference to the political and military situation will not be accepted.
Through this activity the ARCS tracing staff at the level of Head Quarters, regional offices and provincial branches connect to each other and distribute and collect Red Cross Messages from and to the community.
Tracing requests answer to the need of those beneficiaries who lost contact with their loved family members, and are looking to restore contact with them. The enquirer can open a case if the person sought is living in a conflict area or the person sought lives abroad. The Afghans within the country can open these cases, in order to establish contact with their lost relatives abroad and the Afghans living abroad can open a case to restore contact with their lost relatives in Afghanistan.
The ARCS RFL staff need to have the essential information about the possible whereabouts of the person sought and enquirer (data of the person sought, enquirer, details of loss of contact, etc), in order to accept the requests. The ICRC coordinates all the RFL activities in Afghanistan, and supports the ARCS to keep in touch with other Red Cross/Red Crescent National Societies through ICRC networks.
Families looking for their missing relatives in Europe
Every year, National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies are contacted by hundreds of families who have lost contact with to their relatives somewhere within or on their way to Europe. The Tracing Services of the National Societies try to help these families to find their family members. However, the search is often difficult, because for example: people are still on the move and do not have a fixed home people are sometimes not officially registered in the country they are currently staying in language differences affect the way of registration, names cannot be found easily. Now, the Restoring Family Links Network would like to give families the chance to look for their loved ones in an active way: families can have their photo published on our website or on Red Cross posters in several countries in Europe. The publication of photos will give family members the possibility to contact a Red Cross office and to get in contact with their family who tries to find them.
Transfer of documents
The ARCS tracing section in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross transmits personal documents of people to their relatives who live in other places than the sender, and there is no alternative option for them to forward the documents, like ID card, passport, education document, driving license, marriage certificate and family pictures.