In Kabul, Afghanistan in 1929, a charitable foundation was created by philanthropists to aid the victims of domestic disasters. This organization would go on to become the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan in 1934, and officially was recognized in 1951 by a declaration by the King.
The Red Cross Society of Afghanistan
Similar to all Red Crescent and Red Cross organizations around the world, the Red Cross Society of Afghanistan works to accomplish its goals by the Seven Universal Principles proclaimed in Vienna in 1956: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, volunteer service, unity and universality. These principles were adopted based on the experience of aid workers of the time. Although challenging, these principles have helped the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan claim many accomplishments in its years of active service.
The Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan is organized into five different departments:
- Disaster Management
- Health Services
- Organizational Development
- International Relations
- Financial, Legal, and Gender
In addition, the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan also has three special issue groups:
- Frostbite prevention
- Poor houses
All eight departments work to tackle prominent recurring issues throughout the country.
Combatting the Elements
For example, the frostbite prevention group provides detailed advice on their website about how to prevent frostbite and how to handle a case of frostbite. Frostbite may sound like an odd injury to receive in Afghanistan (as many people picture the country as strictly a mountainous desert) but nighttime temperatures can drop significantly in a desert due to the lack of moisture to retain heat; in addition, average temperature can drop quickly as elevation increases.
Temperature is not the only environmental hazard that the people in Afghanistan must deal with — earthquakes also often strike Afghanistan. In 2015, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake shook the Hindu Kush Mountains; in Afghanistan, 77 people were killed by the earthquake and 2000 more were injured. The Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan responded with volunteers to aid the injured and rebuild infrastructure.
Heavy snowfall must also be contented in the Hindu Kush Mountains as it causes avalanches and detrimental aftermath. In 2015, heavy snowfall and rain caused flooding, avalanches and mudslides in 22 provinces in Afghanistan, killing over 200 people and damaging over 600 homes. During and after the precipitation, Red Crescent members handed out foodstuffs along with blankets and heaters to those in need. In true fashion of the Red Cross Red Crescent Society, other Red Crescent Societies delivered aid and volunteers to Afghanistan.
Partnerships for Change
Cooperation between Red Cross Red Crescent Societies around the world is not uncommon, and the 2015 aid to Afghanistan is not the first time the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan worked with a partner. In 2013, the Red Cross Society of Canada and the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan launched a mission of cooperation.
The collaboration’s main goal was to mitigate the damages caused by common natural disasters in Afghanistan, and this arrangement lasted until 2017. The Red Cross and Red Crescent societies would work with the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority to improve the government capability to deal with natural disasters. Technology, money, and advanced planning techniques would be shared by the Canadians, who in turn would learn much from their Afghan cohorts.
The Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan took over the operation and funding of the Marastoons (orphanages and poor houses), from the Afghan government in 1961. In 2015, over 1000 individuals lived in these Marastoons. Aside from providing safe housing for individuals, the Marastoons also help to provide, food, education, job training and other health services.
For example, the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan helped to construct a high-school at the Marastoon in Kabul. The school was eventually recognized and accredited by the Afghan government, and now provides math, religion, English and computer courses to those who can attend.
Debunking Social Stigmas
In 2013, the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan opened their Gender department. Its goal is to implement gender-sensitive education programs within the organization and the national population of Afghanistan. This is an important issue facing a conservative country, and it’s estimated that there are over one million widows in Afghanistan due to the ongoing war.
Often social stigmas prevent widows from returning to a normal life after the loss of a husband, and these “norms” sometimes relegate this population to second-class citizenship. On March 11, 2018, the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan celebrated International Women’s Day, in solidarity with other countries in the international community.
More Work to Be Done
The President of the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan gave a speech. In his speech, he marked the increasing education level of women in Afghanistan and professional training but also said that there is still work to be done; as a result, the Red Crescent Society will continue to work to further women’s rights in Afghanistan. The Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan and the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement recognize women’s rights as human rights.
The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan affects people at all levels of society throughout all of the provinces of Afghanistan. This combined with rampant corruption and tribal conflicts make aid work difficult in the country. Hopefully continued work by the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan and those around the world will help mitigate the effects of these issues on certain populations.
– Nick DeMarco