Women’s participation in aid delivery must continue in Afghanistan: UN committee

The decision by the Taliban to ban women from working in humanitarian non-governmental organizations is a major blow to vulnerable communities, women, children, and the entire country, UN’s Principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Afghanistan said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Female staff members are key to every aspect of the humanitarian response in Afghanistan,” the committee said. “They are teachers, nutrition experts, team leaders, community health workers, vaccinators, nurses, doctors, and heads of organizations.”

The UN committee said that women employees have access to populations that their male colleagues cannot reach and are critical to safeguarding the communities we serve. “They save lives. Their professional expertise is indispensable. Their participation in aid delivery is not negotiable and must continue,” it added.

The committee said that banning women from humanitarian work has immediate life-threatening consequences for all Afghans.

“Already, some time-critical programs have had to stop temporarily due to lack of female staff,” the committee said.

This comes at a time when more than 28 million people in Afghanistan, including millions of women and children, require assistance to survive as the country grapples with the risk of famine conditions, economic decline, entrenched poverty and a brutal winter, the UN committee added.

“While humanitarian organizations continue to engage the Taliban, we cannot ignore the operational constraints now facing us as a humanitarian community,” it said.

The committee stated that it will endeavor to continue lifesaving, time-critical activities unless impeded while it better assesses the scope, parameters and consequences of this directive for the people they serve.

“But we foresee that many activities will need to be paused as we cannot deliver principled humanitarian assistance without female aid workers,” said the committee.

The UN committee said that they remain resolute in their commitment to delivering independent, principled, lifesaving assistance to all the women, men and children who need it.

“We urge the de facto authorities to reconsider and reverse this directive, and all directives banning women from schools, universities and public life. No country can afford to exclude half its population from contributing to society,” it added.