G7 calls on Taliban to lift ban on humanitarian workers as UN suspends ‘critical times’ programs in Afghanistan

The United Nations has also warned that many other businesses and programs in the country could also be affected (Getty Images)

The G7 has called on the Taliban to lift its “reckless and dangerous” ban on women humanitarian workers after the United Nations was forced to suspend several “times critical” programs in Afghanistan.

The global group’s foreign ministers said in a joint statement that they were “gravely concerned that the reckless and dangerous order of the Taliban … puts at risk millions of Afghans who depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival.”

“We are calling on the Taliban to urgently reverse this decision,” they said.

It comes after UN aid chief Martin Griffiths, heads of UN agencies and several humanitarian groups said in a joint statement Wednesday that programs were temporarily suspended due to a shortage of female staff.

The United Nations has also warned that many other activities and programs in the country could also be affected by the Taliban’s ban on female humanitarian workers. Griffiths said “women’s participation in aid delivery is non-negotiable and must continue.”

She continued: “Banning women from humanitarian work has immediate and life-threatening consequences for all Afghans. Some urgent programs have already had to be temporarily halted due to a lack of female staff.”

The statement said that “we cannot ignore the operational constraints we now face as a humanitarian community. We will pledge to continue life-saving and urgent activities… But we anticipate that many activities will have to be suspended as we cannot deliver principled humanitarian assistance without women workers.”

This comes just days after a senior UN official in Kabul met with a Taliban government minister in the Afghan capital.

The decision to ban women from working for non-governmental organizations – the latest in the restrictions on women’s rights and freedoms in Afghanistan – was announced Saturday by Qari Din Mohammad Hanif, the Taliban’s economy minister. It was allegedly imposed because some employees of an NGO in Afghanistan were not wearing the hijab correctly.

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan said in a tweet that its acting boss, Ramiz Alakbarov, met with Hanif on Monday and asked for the ban to be lifted.

“Millions of Afghans are in need of humanitarian assistance and the removal of barriers is vital,” the United Nations said.

Since the ban was announced, at least six major international aid agencies have outdone their operations in Afghanistan, saying they cannot effectively reach people in dire need without their female workforce.

The agencies – Christian Aid, ActionAid, Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE – have provided health care, education and child protection to combat collapsing humanitarian conditions.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has also asked the Taliban to revoke “the decree issued on December 24 that prohibits women from working in national and international NGOs” and affirmed that it is “yet another serious violation of women’s rights and humanitarian principles”.

Sima Bahous, executive director of UN Women, earlier this week said the Taliban had once again found “new ways to harm women and girls” in Afghanistan.

“This is relentless misogyny, a virulent attack on women, their contribution, their freedom and their voice. It is yet another repudiation of all norms and standards of women’s human rights and respect for human dignity,” Bahous said on Tuesday.

Even the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has defined the latest restrictions imposed by the Taliban on the employment and education of women and girls as “inexcusable violations of human rights” and affirmed that “actions to exclude and silence women and girls continue to cause immense suffering and severe setbacks to the potential of the Afghan people”.

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