Aid agencies warn of ‘life-threatening consequences’ of NGO ban

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Heads of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Afghanistan, under the umbrella of the World Health Organization, have collectively said banning women from humanitarian work has immediate life-threatening consequences for all Afghans.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the agencies said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) decision to ban women from working for NGOs was a “major blow for vulnerable communities, for women, for children, and for the entire country.”

The organizations said female staff are key to every aspect of the humanitarian response in Afghanistan.

“They are teachers, nutrition experts, team leaders, community health workers, vaccinators, nurses, doctors, and heads of organizations. They have access to populations that their male colleagues cannot reach and are critical to safeguarding the communities we serve,” read the statement.

“They save lives,” the organization said.

Their professional expertise is indispensable and their participation in aid delivery is “not negotiable and must continue”, the statement noted.

Since the IEA’s announcement on Saturday, some programmes have had to stop temporarily due to the lack of female staff. “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 statement read.

However, the agencies said they will “endeavor to continue lifesaving, time-critical activities unless impeded”.

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

“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 of its population from contributing to society,” the statement read.

Signatories to the statement were as follows:

Mr. Martin Griffiths, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Mr. Qu Dongyu, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Ms. Shahin Ashraf, Chair, International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) Board, (Islamic Relief)

Mr. Ignacio Packer, Executive Director, International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA)

Ms. Miriam Sapiro, President and Chief Executive Officer, InterAction

Ms. Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Eexcutive Officer, Mercy Corps

Ms. Janti Soerpinto, President and Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children US

Mr. António Vitorino, Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Mr. Volker Turk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Mr. Andrew Morley, President and Chief Executive Officer, World Vision International

Ms. Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary-General, CARE International

Ms. Paula Gaviria Betancur, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (UN SR on HR of IDPs)

Mr. Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat)

Mr. Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Ms. Catherine Russell, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Ms. Sima Bahous, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director (UN Women)

Mr. David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP)

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO)—Ariana news