The Taliban have banned female NGO workers, jeopardizing relief efforts

The Taliban have banned female NGO workers, jeopardizing relief efforts
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  • Taliban orders NGOs to stop women workers from working
  • It comes after the expulsion of female students from universities
  • The UN says the order will have a serious impact on humanitarian operations
  • The UN plans to meet with the Taliban to seek clarification

KABUL, Dec 24 (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s Taliban-run administration on Saturday ordered all domestic and foreign NGOs to suspend work for women workers, a blow to humanitarian operations as winter engulfs a country in economic crisis, the U.N. said. will hit

The letter, confirmed by Economy Ministry spokesman Abdulrahman Habib, said that female employees of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), some of whom did not comply with the administration’s interpretation of Islamic dress codes for women, were not allowed to work until further notice.

It comes days after the administration’s order making universities accessible to womendrawing global condemnation and some protests and heavy criticism within Afghanistan.

Both decisions are the latest restrictions on women that could undermine the Taliban-led administration’s efforts to gain international recognition and open sanctions that have severely hampered the economy.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed deep concern on Twitter that the move would “cut off vital and life-saving aid to millions of people,” adding: “Women are at the center of humanitarian operations around the world. This decision could be devastating for the US. The Afghan people.”

Ramiz Alakbarov, deputy special representative of the UN for Afghanistan and coordinator for humanitarian affairs, told Reuters that although the UN did not receive this order, contracted NGOs have carried out most of their activities and will be seriously affected by this.

“Many of our programs will be affected,” she said, because they need women workers to assess humanitarian needs and identify beneficiaries, otherwise they will not be able to implement aid programs.

The international aid agency, AfghanAid, said it had suspended operations immediately while consulting with other organizations, and that other NGOs had taken similar steps.

The potential threat to aid programs reaching millions of Afghans comes during the mountainous country’s coldest season, when more than half the population relies on humanitarian aid, according to aid agencies.

“There is never a good time for something like this… but this particular time is very unfortunate, because people need it most in winter, and Afghanistan’s winters are very harsh,” Alakbarov said.

He said his office would consult with NGOs and UN agencies on Sunday and try to meet with Taliban officials to get an explanation.

Aid workers say women workers are essential in a country where regulations and cultural customs prevent male workers from delivering aid to female beneficiaries.

“An important principle of the delivery of humanitarian aid is the ability of women to participate independently and unhindered in its distribution, if we cannot do this in principle, no donor will finance such programs,” Alakbarov said.

Asked whether the regulations directly covered UN agencies, Habib said the letter applied to organizations under Afghanistan’s coordinating body for humanitarian organizations, known as ACBAR. That organization does not include the UN, but includes more than 180 local and international NGOs.

The letter states that if they do not comply, their licenses will be suspended.

Afghanistan’s struggling economy has been in crisis since the Taliban seized power in 2021, with the country facing sanctions, cuts in development aid and a freeze on central bank assets.

According to AfghanAid, a record 28 million Afghans are estimated to need humanitarian assistance next year.

Report from the Kabul newsroom; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington Editing by Mark Potter and Josie Kao

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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