Germany may stop aid to Afghanistan over Taliban’s ban on female NGO staff

Children waiting in a queue to receive food in aid in Kabul on January 18, 2022.

Germany could suspend humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan after the Taliban banned women from working for aid agencies.

Development Minister Svenja Schulze said Tuesday that the move was an “irresponsible attack on aid to the Afghan people”.

She said: “Without female employees, organizations cannot continue their work in many areas for half the population,” adding that “I am therefore in favor of suspending the current support we are providing with others for the time being.”

Schulze’s comments came after a German food and hygiene agency became the latest NGO to say it could not continue with its usual operations in Afghanistan.

Mathias Mogge, head of the agency World Hunger Aid, said the ban would have “catastrophic effects” on food, health and education programmes, DW reported.

An order issued by the Taliban on Saturday banned women from working for NGOS, a ban that followed just days after the group barred women from attending universities.

“Without female staff, organizations cannot continue their work for half the population in many areas,” Schulze said in a statement.

Schulze said she would call a meeting with the World Bank and donors to discuss “how and whether support for the Afghan people can be continued in the circumstances created by the Taliban”.

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, separately warned that member states could scale back their assistance to Afghanistan.

Europe “will have to consider what consequences this decision, and the recent decision by the Taliban to close universities for women, will have,” he said.

Several major NGOs, including CARE, the IRC and Save the Children have announced they are pausing their humanitarian work.

Meanwhile the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development (ACBAR) said in a statement that its Steering Committee met Monday 26th December to discuss its deep concern about the orders banning all women staff at NGOs.

“Greater clarity for such a drastic measure is needed and dialogue with the authorities will be pursued,” the statement read.

“Already, many of ACBAR’s 183 national and international NGO members have suspended, stopped, or reduced their humanitarian activities and services for the communities. Women staff play an essential role in NGO activities in providing humanitarian services, in order to respect traditional and religious customs.

“This exclusion of women will impact on communities in emergency food distribution, health services, basic education, livelihood training, protection services, and disability services,” the statement read.

ACBAR members employ 55,249 Afghan nationals, of whom 28% are women.

ACBAR meanwhile said it urgently requests the Ministry of Economy to withdraw the suspension letter and engage in open discussions to find a constructive and durable way forward.

Meanwhile, Mogge, from the German food agency, called on the international community to negotiate a reversal of the ban.

The group “respects the traditional, cultural and religious values of the country, but we categorically reject any discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, age or ethnic background,” he said.

“Without our female colleagues we can no longer adequately provide for women and girls in the country.”

NGOs have been warned that they could have their licenses suspended in Afghanistan if they fail to comply with the ban on women.

The Taliban tried to justify the move by saying complaints had been made about the dress code of female aid workers.