Saturday, February 4, 2023

UN suspends programs in Afghanistan following Taliban ban on women

The United Nations has announced that some "time-critical" programs in Afghanistan have temporarily stopped after Taliban banned women from working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths, the heads of UN agencies, and several aid groups said in a joint statement on Wednesday that many other activities would also likely need to be paused in Afghanistan, “as we cannot deliver principled humanitarian assistance without female aid workers.”

They stated women’s “participation in aid delivery is not negotiable and must continue.”

On Saturday, Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban obliged all local and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to bar their female employees from coming to work, citing some female employees’ failure to observe the Taliban dress code for women.

The ban on female staff in NGOs followed a similar one by the Taliban on Tuesday that prohibited university education for women.

“Banning women from humanitarian work has immediate life-threatening consequences for all Afghans,” said the statement. “Already, some time-critical programs have had to stop temporarily due to lack of female staff.”

“We cannot ignore the operational constraints now facing us as a humanitarian community,” it noted, adding, “We will endeavor to continue lifesaving, time-critical activities… But we foresee that many activities will need to be paused as we cannot deliver principled humanitarian assistance without female aid workers.”

Almost all the large NGO aid agencies operating in Afghanistan have suspended almost all their work even as millions of people are in need of humanitarian assistance in harsh winter conditions in the country.

The agencies say that under Afghanistan’s customs, they cannot provide vital services such as health advice to women without female staff or doctors.

The halt in UN programs came as the foreign ministers of 12 countries and the European Union (EU), including the United States and Britain, urged the Taliban to reverse its decision barring female employees of aid groups.

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