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Red Cross says Civilians Bear Brunt of Pakistan and Afghanistan Conflicts


The International Committee of the Red Cross says political instability and fighting is worsening in Pakistan and Afghanistan and civilians are bearing the brunt of these conflicts.

The committee says the armed conflict in Afghanistan is intensifying and affecting more areas of the country. It says civilians are suffering severe hardship in the northwest of Pakistan due to an increasingly volatile security situation.

ICRC head of operations for South Asia Jacques de Maio says the situation is expected to get worse. "There are too many civilians who get killed, maimed, humiliated, wounded and not treated because of the war. So, yes, there is absolutely a need on all sides to take significant measures to minimize the impact on civilians, to ensure that the injured will be duly taken care of, to ensure that detainees are being treated humanely and equitably," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced a new strategy to, as he said, disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Washington is preparing to send 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

Critics of U.S. policy in the region blame the Americans for many of the civilian casualties, but the United States accuses the Taliban of using civilians as human shields.

Red Cross Official De Maio says there is no such thing as a clean war. But, he says there are international rules governing the conduct of war. "There are conflicts going on. There is armed violence being carried out and the impact on civilians is, indeed, too high and can be minimized. So, we believe there is room for improvement as far as the protection, the distinction, the proportionality, the precaution in the war or in the combat, in the struggle that can result in lesser damage on the population of concern."

The Red Cross reports tens of thousands of people in Pakistan and Afghanistan have fled their homes because of conflict. It says the number of wounded arriving at Red Cross field hospitals has gone up by more than 50 percent during the past year.

To meet the increased needs, the Red Cross says it is doubling its budget for Pakistan to $46-million and is sending more aid workers to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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