• About CIVIC

    CIVIC is a Washington-based non-profit organization that believes the civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and helped by the warring parties involved.

    On this blog, you will find stories from our travels around the world as we meet with civilians and military, aid organizations and government in our quest to get war victims the help they need.

  • Countries

  • Contributors

    Sarah, Executive Director

    Marla B, Managing Director

    Kristele, Field Director

    Liz, Chief Communications Officer

    Trevor, CIVIC's fellow based in Afghanistan

    Chris, CIVIC's fellow based in Pakistan

    Jon, CIVIC's US military consultant

  • Media Content

Aid isn’t one-size-fits-all…

Posted By: Marla B.

Erica’s story illustrates an interesting point. As you well know, we believe civilians suffering in armed conflict need and deserve help. The difficult question becomes ‘what kind of help’? This question cannot be answered without a firm grasp on the dynamics not only of this conflict but also of this particular community. As we’ve seen in several cases in the past, sometimes the best option is victim specific redress. But in this particularly difficult security situation, our answer comes in the form of community re-building. To be sure, there can be no ‘magic’ answer to the question – one that works for every situation. Each conflict, each case has to be considered on its own. What we can be sure about is that regardless of the type of aid, it is imperative to help civilians harmed in ways both feasible and meaningful to them.

Shar-e-Cott, pt. 1

Posted By: Erica

In Afghanistan, even when there is the will and the resources, increasing security considerations often make it difficult to impossible to reach civilians caught in conflict. When I was in Gardez a couple of weeks ago, I witnessed an ACAP distribution of tools and materials to support a community construction project for the small village of Shar-e-cott, about an hour away from Gardez City. Shar-e-Cott suffered extensive damage during the US air campaign in 2001, but because of its location and security issues, few aid workers, international or local, have been able to access it. The population of 2,500 has been waiting seven years for some sort of help rebuilding, much less genuine redress.

As mentioned in other blogs, ACAP usually works similar to livelihood-targeted social work – they work with individual families to help them rebuild their lives and find other means of income to get them back on their feet. Given the continuing instability in Shar-e-Cott, that type of work is not possible. Even local staff members would be at risk for kidnappings or reprisals. Instead ACAP has developed a community reconstruction project for Shar-e-Cott that may become a model for ways to reach out to these types of communities. The next blog will share a bit more about this type of project and what it meant for the community of Shar-e-Cott

Photo: Shar-e-Cott.

Exploding Threat to Afghans

Posted By: Erica

On May 30th, 110 nations [now 111] signed the Cluster Munitions Treaty in Dublin, Ireland. The treaty bans the use, development and stockpiling of cluster munitions–a type of weapon that when dropped aerially or ground-launched, disperses hundreds or thousands of tiny submunitions (or bomblets) that can cover an area as wide as a football field. The submunitions are designed to explode on impact, but in many cases they don’t, leaving behind what are functionally hundreds of mini-landmines. The Cluster Munition Treaty recognizes requires clean up and – finally – assistance to civilians harmed. Continue reading

Air Raids in Gardez

Posted By: Erica

Today I went to a small city, Gardez, a few hours south of Kabul. I stayed at a UN guesthouse and at different points of the day and night you could hear the faint sound of gunfire and explosions in the distance. Although Gardez itself is relatively stable, it’s only about 10 kilometers out from the hottest part of the province, an area believed to be a stronghold of the Taliban. Continue reading

Disappearances, Pt. 2

Posted By: Erica

When his family members went missing, Shafek went with his father and his uncle to the “front lines” of Kabul (ironically a road that is now so peaceful that my office is located there). They saw bodies strewn everywhere. Many of them had been mutilated, a woman’s head atop a man’s body, or vice versa. “Unrecognizable,” Shafek said. He saw one woman who had been pregnant, with her belly slit open, her womb a pit of dried blood and flies.

They did not find their family members anywhere, so they went to the nearby university to search the containers. These steel shipping containers can still be found everywhere in Kabul — it’s the most common structure for small shops and businesses. But back in those days they sometimes had a different purpose. Fifteen to twenty bodies were collected in each container, Shafek said. As Shafek and his father and uncle sifted through the containers, looking for their loved ones, they were horrified to think that a similar fate had befallen them.

“The worst is when someone goes missing,” Shafek told me, a lump in his throat, “Because then whenever you hear about something horrible that has happened, you imagine that this same atrocity has happened to them as well. When someone dies, at least you can bury them, but when someone has disappeared, they always stay on with you this way.”

Like many Afghan families, Shafek and his family have never found out what happened to their two loved ones.

Photo: Shipping Containers

Shipping Containers in Kabul

Disappearances, pt 1

Posted By: Erica

I met with a man named Shafek today. He works with a victim’s group, helping develop transitional justice programming for Afghan victims of conflict. Most of the Afghans in this group have suffered losses in the pre-2001 conflicts, and Shafek’s own experiences are drawn from the Afghan Civil War in the 1990s. He was 12-years-old at the height of the Afghan Civil War, and one day he and his family heard that his uncle had been injured in fighting in the next neighborhood over from them. His father sent him and his brother out to find out, because they were young enough that there was a chance they might not be arrested or immediately killed.  Unfortunately this was not the case. He and his brother were captured and tortured.

Over a decade later he still bears deep scars on his legs and his back from the mistreatment, yet he did not flinch to show me these scars, or to tell me what happened to him. He and his brother made it back, he said. What makes him tear up is the memory of the two family members who “disappeared” about the same time, and never returned.

Marla B in Jordan: Where have all the doctors gone?

Posted By: Marla B.

We’ve just finished interviewing several doctors – from a psychiatrist to a head and neck trauma specialist to a dermatologist.  None of the doctors wanted to on video because they all were worried about the situation for their families back in Iraq and as a precaution if they decided to return one day.   But they each told us the same thing:  there are no medical specialists left in Iraq.

When militias started becoming prevalent in Iraq there were certain groups specifically targeted by their violence.  Professors, doctors, anyone who worked or cooperated with Americans and artists among them.  Many of these people, or those with the financial means, left Iraq early on for Jordan or other countries.  This ‘brain drain’ (dubbed as such by the Western media) wreaked havoc on the hospitals in particular, leaving them without proper capacity to treat the victims streaming in every day.

One of the doctors told us about his time working in one of Baghdad’s busiest hospitals.  Chief among the points he made was the lack of appropriate supplies – from the sophisticated equipment to something as rudimentary as the correct type of sutures for his patients.

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