Fighting has been ongoing west of Qaysar, in Faryab province, since early May, displacing thousands of people from more than 20 villages and triggering a distribution of emergency aid by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Afghan Red Crescent Society in this highly volatile, hard-to-reach part of north-west Afghanistan. The distribution was made possible only after security guarantees had been obtained from all parties to the fighting. « We were guaranteed safe passage by each side, » said Pablo Percelsi, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Mazar-i-Sharif. « The distribution, which lasted for four days, was preceded by an 11-day needs assessment carried out by Afghan Red Crescent staff and volunteers. » Some 30 ICRC and Afghan Red Crescent staff and volunteers delivered more than 200 metric tonnes of rice, beans, sugar, salt, tea and ghee to over 12,000 displaced people between 23 and 26 May. Blankets, soap, jerrycans, tarpaulins and other emergency items were also distributed. Many people had fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs and said they did not plan to return to their villages any time soon. « We have been through very difficult times, » said one community leader from Mirak village. « Leaving our homes was the only solution, and now we are struggling with hunger and the lack of water and medical care. But, most important, we have no home to stay in. » « We are living in the desert in an open area where water is barely available, » said a man who had been displaced from Bashlamist. « Displacement is a major problem. » The distribution took place in Qaysar district centre. Those receiving the aid then ferried the supplies back to where they had taken refuge, using tractors and carts. « Although some of the displaced have found shelter with relatives and host families, others are camping out in the open in a very precarious situation, » said Jean-Pierre Nereyabagabo, who coordinates the ICRC’s economic security programmes in Afghanistan. The current military operation is only the latest incident in what has been a volatile situation for many months in the north-west. The area has been extremely difficult to reach because of the fighting. The ICRC and the Afghan Red Crescent will continue to monitor the situation of those who have been displaced, and will plan a second distribution if necessary. Meanwhile, displacement caused by military operations and localized fighting continues to plague communities in many other parts of the country. Between January and April this year the ICRC assisted more than 51,000 internally displaced people, a rise of 40 per cent over the same period last year.