Afghanistan needs you, Red Cross tells other aid groups
Sept 8 (Reuters) - The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) appealed on Wednesday to other humanitarian organisations to return to Afghanistan and for the World Bank to unlock funds to support the tottering healthcare system.
Peter Maurer made the comments in a briefing with reporters at the end of a four-day trip to Afghanistan when he met Taliban leaders including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban's political office.
"I do hope that other organisations can find a pathway back," Maurer said. "I appreciate all of those humanitarian organisations that have an ability to defreeze, to unblock their programmes because needs are uncontested."
"The more other organisations suspend or move out of Afghanistan, with their staff and with competent Afghan staff, the more there are expectations towards the ICRC."
Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been plunged into crisis by the abrupt end of billions of dollars in foreign aid following the collapse of the Western-backed government and the victory of the Taliban last month.
Maurer said the ICRC never takes positions on sanctions, but said World Bank support for the health sector was critical.
"I would certainly advocate for the Bank to look for the best possible way to resume support for health facilities in Afghanistan," he said.
During its period in power from 1996-2001, the Islamist militants had an uneasy relationship with foreign aid agencies, eventually expelling many. This time, the group has said it welcomes foreign donors, and will protect the rights of foreign and local staff.
Maurer said the Taliban had shown willingness for the ICRC to continue to monitor conditions in prisons and had expressed interest in the organisation helping to support former long-term prisoners.
The Afghan government released 400 "hard-core" Taliban prisoners last month as a condition for peace talks.
"We are open to discuss what an adapted detainee and prison programme could look like," Maurer said.
The ICRC, which has worked in Afghanistan since 1987, deploys some 1,800 national and international staff in the country, including surgical teams.
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