IRC joins list of NGOs suspending operations in Afghanistan in wake of Taliban ban

Photo: IRC

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said Sunday in a statement that it relies on its female staff to deliver to those in need and if they are not able to employ women, then they are unable to continue operating in Afghanistan.

“Therefore, the IRC is currently suspending our services in Afghanistan,” the statement read.

The organization said it “is dismayed and disheartened by the latest Taliban edict to ban women from working for NGOs in Afghanistan”.

The IRC has been working in Afghanistan since 1988 and has helped millions of the most vulnerable across the country. “Throughout these years, we have never had to cease delivering support,” they said.

IRC is a key employer in the country, and currently employs over 8,000 people in Afghanistan – over 3,000 of whom are women.

“With Afghanistan in the midst of a worsening humanitarian crisis and economic collapse, humanitarian actors have been essential in saving lives in the country over the course of the past year. None of that would have been possible without female humanitarian workers.

“In the last year alone, restrictions on access to work for women have furthered Afghanistan’s failing economy, producing an economic loss of up to $1 billion – about 5% of Afghanistan’s GDP,” the IRC stated.

“The latest decree from the authorities barring Afghan women from working in national and international NGOs, following earlier decrees barring women from attending universities, vocational training, and private institutions will have lifelong impacts on the present and future of Afghanistan. The exclusion of women from humanitarian service delivery will have catastrophic consequences for the Afghan people because our services depend on women workers,” they said.

The organization said however that it is committed to working with national and international NGOs, civil society organizations, the UN, and all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the situation is resolved so that we are able to serve the Afghan people.

Another three suspend operations

The IRC’s decision came close on the heels of another announcement, by three foreign aid groups said Sunday, that said they are suspending their operations in Afghanistan for now after the Taliban barred all NGOs from employing female staff.

“We cannot effectively reach children, women and men in desperate need in Afghanistan without our female staff,” aid organizations Save the Children, Norwegian Refugee Council, and CARE International said in a joint statement Sunday.

“Without women driving our response, we would not have jointly reached millions of Afghans in need since August 2021. Beyond the impact on the delivery of lifesaving assistance, this will affect thousands of jobs in the midst of an enormous economic crisis,” said the statement, which was signed by the heads of the three NGOs.

“Whilst we gain clarity on this announcement, we are suspending our programs, demanding that men and women can equally continue our lifesaving assistance in Afghanistan,” the statement added.

This comes after the Taliban on Saturday ordered all local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to stop their female employees from coming to work.

In a letter from the Taliban’s ministry of economy, which was sent to all licensed NGOs, the group said non-compliance of Islamic dress regulations was the reason for the decision. NGOs were also told that non-compliance will result in their licenses being revoked.