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Taliban’s Latest Restrictions Plunge Afghanistan Deeper Into Humanitarian Crisis

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is rapidly worsening as a result of the Taliban’s latest sanction against women. Officials have prohibited women and girls from working at NGOs after they declared hijab regulations were not being adhered to strictly enough.

The impact of this decision upon the level of aid now available to the Afghan people is staggering. Where 97 percent of the population live in poverty, it’s estimated that two thirds of the country, or 28.3 million people, will require humanitarian assistance in 2023.

Afghanistan has been one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian emergencies for years. 95 percent of Afghans already struggle with insufficient food consumption, and after the Taliban’s latest ruling upwards of 150 aid agencies have suspended aid operations in the country, some of these including time-critical programmes.

In light of this policy turnaround, the UN’s chief humanitarian coordinator Martin Griffiths has outlined that UN-supplied aid will not continue if the Taliban prohibit women working for humanitarian agencies. 

According to The Guardian, Griffiths stated: “Without women working, we can’t deliver for the people who are in fact the primary objects of humanitarian assistance - women and girls. So it’s a practical matter. It’s beyond rights.”

By preventing women from working at NGOs, the Taliban are denying pivotal, life-saving services to Afghan women and children. In a statement by G7 last week, they said: “Women are central to humanitarian and basic needs operations. Unless they participate in aid delivery in Afghanistan, NGOs will be unable to reach the country’s most vulnerable to provide food, medicine, winterisation, and other services they need to live.” 

Female workers have access to specific social factions that their male colleagues cannot reach. Prohibiting women from participating in aid delivery would effectively prevent women and girls in the country from accessing health care. 

Calling on the Taliban to retract the reckless policy, UN officials describe female staff as central to every aspect of humanitarian aid. By denying the population access to their services as nurses, doctors, vaccinators, nutritionists, community health workers and teachers, the Taliban are effectively committing Afghan people to increased hardship.

This ban comes as the latest in a string of sanctions implemented by the Taliban over the last 15 months. Since then, life has changed irreconcilably for women and girls in the country - they've been banned from using parks and public baths, travelling unless accompanied by a male, and studying at secondary school. Most recently women have been prohibited from attending university, meaning no more female professionals, including doctors and teachers, will be trained. 

The psychological fallout from these restrictions has been immense. Since being cut off from education, many young women are struggling with severe depression. Suicide rates among women and girls have risen, as has the frequency of child marriage since secondary schools were shut down. Those bravely protesting recent sanctions have been beaten and whipped.

Sadly, it’s estimated that with the latest ban this fallout will only worsen. In many cases, the women now prohibited from working at NGOs were the sole breadwinners of their households. Removing their salary means these women and their families will either starve, or have to resort to other, more dangerous ways of making money.

This comes as the onset of a brutal winter has seen temperatures reach as low as -33 degrees in certain regions. The country’s Ministry of Disaster Management confirmed last week that at least 150 people and 70,000 cattle have died as a result of these conditions. Hundreds of children have reportedly been hospitalised with pneumonia, and now face a steep decline in available aid services.

A UN representative is due to fly to Kabul soon in attempts to resolve the crisis. The heart-breaking reality is that without successful intervention, Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis will only worsen. It seems that the Taliban’s decision to decrease the space for women and girls in society is now not just a matter of rights, but also of survival.

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Tags: #Afghanistan #Taliban


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