UN: Taliban ban on women aid workers is potential death blow


UN chief warned on Monday that the Taliban’s ban on female aid workers in Afghanistan is a “potential fatal blow” to many vital humanitarian programs. .

Martin Griffiths told a news conference that if the Taliban didn’t make an exception to their decree, “this would be catastrophic.”

He said a delegation including international aid groups made the case that Afghan women are vital to humanitarian operations during meetings last week with nine Taliban officials, including ministries economic and diplomatic chief of Afghanistan.

“We were asked to be patient,” Griffiths said. “We are told that guidelines are being developed by the Taliban government to provide, allegedly, the performance of women in humanitarian activities.”

He said the Taliban’s consistent message “that there will be a place for women to work” is “a bit of a condescending message, but it’s an important message.”

Griffiths noted that following the Taliban’s December 24 decree banning aid groups from recruiting Afghan women, the health minister granted an exception for women in the health sector and the education minister granted an exception. rates for those involved in primary education.

He said the humanitarian mission had told the Taliban that if they did not repeal the decree “then we must expand these exceptions to include all aspects of humanitarian action.”

Griffiths, the United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, would not speculate on what would happen.

“Let’s see if these guidelines get passed. Let’s see if they are beneficial. Let’s see if there is space for the essential and central role of women in our humanitarian activities,” he said.

Despite initial promises, the Taliban have imposed increasing restrictions on girls and women since they came to power in August 2021 in the final weeks of the withdrawal of US and NATO troops. army after 20 years. Their takeover has plunged millions into poverty after foreign aid shut down almost overnight.

Omar Abdi, deputy executive director of UN children’s agency UNICEF who joined the mission, said 6 million Afghans face food insecurity at an urgent level and are left with only a few steps to go. famine one step. He said 875,000 children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year, which is why “it is important to continue these activities”.

Abdi cites a number of positive signs. He said that despite the Taliban’s ban on girls attending high school, an estimated 200,000 girls continue to attend secondary school in about 12 provinces. He added that female high school teachers continue to receive salaries from the Taliban government.

He said Taliban officials have reaffirmed to the delegation “that they have no objection to girls attending secondary schools and have once again promised to reopen once the guidelines are approved by their leaders.” agree.”

“In addition, in the past year, the number of community education classes taking place in private, public places has doubled, from 10,000 to 20,000 classes,” he said. “These places serve about 600,000 children, 55 percent of which are girls.”

Abdi said these positive signs are the result of both a commitment from the Taliban government and pressure from the local community to keep schools and community schools open.

“Without education, there is certainly no hope of a better future for Afghan girls and women,” he said.

Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, secretary general of CARE International, said that “binding the hands of NGOs by banning women from assisting in saving the lives of other women will cost their lives.”

Janti Soeripto, president of Save the Children US, said women make up 30 per cent of Afghanistan’s 55,000 citizens who work for NGOs, and many of them are the sole breadwinners for their families.

Without them, aid could not reach millions of women and children, she said, and “if the ban is not reversed, the consequences for the people of Afghanistan will be dire.”

So far, women working for the UN and UN agencies have not been banned and continue to work, Griffiths said, but he stressed that Afghan women must also be allowed to contribute to the country’s economy. country.

“Afghanistan is experiencing a barbaric winter, the second under the Taliban,” he said. “Last winter, we survived. I don’t know if we can do this indefinitely, not with all these bans.”

He said 28 million Afghans need help and the $4.6 billion needed in humanitarian aid to the country this year is the largest amount in the world.

“Every day that goes by without the right humanitarian aid, is not a good day for the Afghan people,” Griffiths said.


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