The United Nations chief of aid said on Wednesday he had urged Taliban authorities to provide more clarity on humanitarian sectors that could reopen to Afghan women workers, warning that a “famine was imminent” as the country is facing a harsh winter.
Afghanistan is facing one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, aid agencies say, with more than half of its 38 million population starving and nearly four million children suffering from malnutrition.
The crisis was exacerbated when the Taliban leadership banned Afghan women from working with NGOs, forcing several aid agencies to suspend essential work.
In recent weeks, authorities have only allowed women to work in the health sector.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, Martin Griffiths, said he hoped more humanitarian sectors would reopen to women workers.
“I have heard from some Taliban leaders that the Taliban government is working on guidelines that will bring greater clarity to the role and opportunity and hopefully freedom of women to work in humanitarian work,” Griffiths said in an interview with TUSEN. an interview at a UN office in Kabul.
“I think it’s very important that we shed light on the process leading up to those guidelines,” he said at the end of a visit to Afghanistan.
Griffiths led a delegation of senior NGO officials who met with several Taliban officials this week in an attempt to push them to further relax the ban on women aid workers.
It was the second UN delegation to come to Afghanistan this month to urge the Taliban government to reverse two recent decrees that have severely limited women’s rights.
In addition to banning women from working in NGOs, Taliban authorities have also denied them access to university education.
Government officials claim the two bans were imposed because women do not follow the rules for wearing the hijab, a claim denied by aid workers and university students.
Since taking power in August 2021, the Taliban government has been swiftly ousting women from public life, as well as banning them from secondary education, public sector work, and parks and bathhouses.
Griffiths promised that when it comes to delivering aid in the poverty-stricken country, the global humanitarian community will push for the use of female workers.
“Wherever there are opportunities for us to provide humanitarian aid and protection in a principled way, that is, with women, we will do it,” he said.
But at this stage, an important task was to get more exemptions for women to work in all humanitarian sectors.
“We don’t have time. Winter is upon us, people are dying, famine is looming,” he said.
“We need decisions now, which is why I think these practical exceptions we’re talking about are so important.”