The Swiss Development Agency (SDC) is to set up a liaison office in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to assist with relief efforts.This content was published on February 18, 2002 - 23:24
The announcement comes a week after a delegation visited the city to assess the security situation on the ground.
Despite recent tensions, including last week's killing of Afghanistan's civil aviation minister, Abdul Rahman, the SDC insists the time is right to open an office to coordinate Swiss humanitarian work in the region.
"One can never say there is no danger. There is always under these circumstances a certain risk to working in these areas," Toni Frisch, director of humanitarian aid at the SDC, told swissinfo.
"But I would not take this risk if I hadn't seen that all the other institutions, humanitarian bodies and UN institutions had also taken the same decision to move from Pakistan to Kabul."
Frisch, who has just returned from Kabul, said the move would ensure closer cooperation with other international aid agencies and humanitarian organisations already in the city.
Up until now, the SDC has directed its relief operations in Afghanistan from Islamabad in neighbouring Pakistan.
"We will cooperate in the future with the Pakistan coordination office, but it's important to be close and in proximity of the persons in need," said Frisch.
"It is also very important to be in Kabul so we can work closely with the international organisations ... and with the authorities in Kabul, so we must have an office there."
Frisch revealed that while it was possible to carry out relief work in the capital, there were still "pockets and areas" elsewhere in the country where there was no access due to winter conditions and security problems.
"In the meantime humanitarian assistance has been brought by helicopter. UNHCR and the World Food Programme are flying to these areas, and more and more access is possible," he said.
by Ramsey Zarifeh and Adam Beaumont
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