Emphasising that the world’s largest humanitarian operation – supporting some 28 million people in Afghanistan – simply cannot function without women staff, a UN-led group is hopeful of exemptions in the Taliban’s decree.
The humanitarians are hoping that the Taliban will allow Afghan women to again work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the ground following last month’s ban.
Four senior aid officials told journalists in New York on Monday that these humanitarians represent the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and submitted a report regarding their mission in Afghanistan, urging Taliban to introduce more exemptions in all humanitarian aspects.
After some effort, Taliban authorities had authorised some women to continue working in the healthcare sector.
These humanitarians met Taliban officials and they were told that guidelines are being developed, and were asked to be patient, said Martin Griffiths, UN relief chief and the IASC chair, speaking during a press conference at UN Headquarters.
“I’m somebody who doesn’t like to speculate too much, because it is a matter of speculation. Let’s see if these guidelines do come through. Let’s see if they are beneficial. Let’s see what space there is for the essential and central role of women in our humanitarian operations,” he said.
“Our view is that the message has clearly been delivered: that women are central, essential workers in the humanitarian sector, in addition to having rights, and we need to see them back to work,” it stressed.
Humanitarians will require $4.6 billion to fund their activities in Afghanistan this year. Three years of drought-like conditions, economic decline, and the impacts of four decades of conflict, have left roughly two-thirds of the population, 28 million people, dependent on aid, with six million on the brink of starvation. Women comprise 30 per cent of the 55,000 Afghan nationals working for NGOs in the country.
Furthermore, many women aid workers are themselves the sole breadwinners for their families, which means many more households will go wanting.
The loss of these valuable workers also comes as Afghanistan is facing its coldest winter in 15 years, with temperatures falling to nearly -30 degrees Celsius, resulting in numerous deaths.