On 2 July, the East Asia regional delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Institute of International Relations of Tsinghua University organized the joint round table “Humanitarian challenges in Afghanistan and Coordinated International Response” at the 10th Forum World Peace Conference in Beijing, China. Several panelists from China, Afghanistan and other countries discussed the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and sustainable ways to address it.
“Afghanistan is at a critical juncture, facing enormous challenges in terms of political, economic and humanitarian development. And it is, above all, Afghanistan’s responsibility to chart the course for its own future. However, international solidarity and cooperation are also important.” said Pierre Krähenbühl, personal envoy of the ICRC president in China and head of the regional delegation for East Asia. He also stressed the importance of neutrality when working in conflict zones. “The ICRC is mandated by States to help people affected by armed conflict and reduce human suffering. We wouldn’t be able to do that if we took sides,” he said.
Li Li, deputy director of the Institute of International Relations at Tsinghua University, said, “The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan continues to escalate. Half the population faces acute hunger, but the conflict in Ukraine has dramatically diverted the world’s attention from Afghanistan. leads to a humanitarian disaster but can also impact regional stability and long-term global peace. »
Health care was one of the important topics addressed by the panel. Reto Stocker, ICRC Special Advisor in Kabul, highlighted the ICRC’s Hospital Resilience Project (HRP) in response to the health crisis in Afghanistan. Since November 2021, in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE), the ICRC has provided financial and technical support to 33 hospitals in Afghanistan. These include Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar and Jamhuriat Hospital in Kabul, which were built by China for Afghanistan. The salaries of more than 10,000 medical staff and the costs of drugs, other supplies and running the hospital were covered by the project.
Stocker also praised China’s support for Afghanistan in building hospitals. “This model can help share desperately needed know-how, transforming hospitals into centers of excellence which, in turn, help modernize and raise the standard of care in other hospitals that are adapting best practices,” did he declare.
Stressing the importance of female medical staff, Sylvia Nga Sze Tsang, administrator at the ICRC hospital in Kabul, said: “Culturally most female patients in Afghanistan are reluctant to be treated by doctors from male sex. HRP-supported hospitals that are run and managed by female directors and colleagues are sometimes the only facilities where patients can seek services. »
Dr. Mirwais Ahmadzai, Director General of Policy and Planning, MoPH, Afghanistan, listed the challenges they face: lack of funding and staff, crippling infrastructure and uneven distribution of medical resources. And the Afghan people are facing a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented magnitude: lack of access to medical care, coupled with a food crisis, soaring prices and natural disasters such as drought and earthquake. Expressing his gratitude for the solidarity shown by the international community over the past 10 months, Dr Ahmadzai called for continued humanitarian support to the Afghan people and the Ministry of Public Health.
Speaking of aid to Afghanistan, Yu Zirong, vice president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, stressed the importance of bilateral and multilateral cooperation. “Humanitarian aid alone, usually provided at the initial stage of an emergency, is not enough. It requires development inside Afghanistan to truly address the problems facing the country,” did he declare. He added: “In the next step, with full respect for religious beliefs, local customs and Afghanistan’s independent development choices, the Chinese government will work for closer cooperation with international organizations such as the ICRC and the United Nations agencies to strengthen international cooperation”.
The 10th World Peace Forum was held in Beijing from July 2 to 4 on the theme “Preserving International Stability: Commonalities, Globality and Cooperation.” Over 300 former senior officials, diplomats and scholars participated online or offline.
Launched in 2012, the Global Peace Forum is the first high-level non-governmental forum on international security organized by Tsinghua University with the assistance of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs. So far, nine offline forums have been organized.