A U.N. official met with a Taliban leader over a ban on women working for NGOs : NPR

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A Save the Children nutrition consultant, right, explains to Nelab, 22, how she feeds her 11-month-old daughter, Parsto, with therapeutic food, which is used to treat severe acute malnutrition, in -Sar-e-Pul province in Afghanistan. in September 2022.

Save the Children through AP


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Save the Children through AP

A Save the Children nutrition consultant, right, explains to Nelab, 22, how she feeds her 11-month-old daughter, Parsto, with therapeutic food, which is used to treat severe acute malnutrition, in -Sar-e-Pul province in Afghanistan. in September 2022.

Save the Children through AP

KABUL, Afghanistan — A senior UN official in Afghanistan met on Sunday with the Taliban-led government’s deputy prime minister to discuss a ban on women working for non-governmental groups that Afghan authorities they announced a series of measures that roll back women’s rights.

The Taliban government’s decision to bar women from NGO work has led major international aid agencies to suspend operations in the country. The ban has raised fears that people will be deprived of food, education, health care and other critical services, as more than half of Afghanistan’s population needs urgent humanitarian assistance.

Aid agencies have warned that the ban will have catastrophic consequences and “hundreds and thousands” of Afghans will die because of the Taliban’s decision.

The deputy head of the UN Mission in Afghanistan, Potzel Markus, met with Maulvi Abdul Salam Hanafi in the capital Kabul to discuss the ban, as well as other measures including the suppression of women from universities.

“Banning women from working in non-governmental organizations, denying girls and women from education and training, harms millions of people in Afghanistan and prevents the delivery of vital aid to Afghan men, women and children,” the UN mission said.

Potzel is the latest UN official to meet with the Taliban leadership amid growing international concern over the curtailment of women’s freedoms in Afghanistan.

Last Monday, the acting head of the UN mission Ramiz Alakbarov met with the Minister of Economy Qari Din Mohammed Hanif.

Hanif issued the ban on the NGOs on December 24, allegedly because the women were not wearing the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, correctly. He said that any organization found not to comply with the order will have its license revoked.

Aid agencies are providing essential services and support in the face of a worsening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

The Taliban takeover in 2021, as US and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their withdrawal after 20 years of war, sent Afghanistan’s economy into a tailspin and it transformed the country, driving millions into poverty and hunger. Foreign aid stopped almost overnight.

Sanctions on Taliban leaders, including freezing bank transfers and freezing billions in Afghanistan’s foreign assets have already limited access to global institutions. Funds from aid agencies helped shore up the country’s aid-dependent economy before the Taliban takeover.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths is due to visit Afghanistan to discuss the ban.

Potzel’s meeting with Hanafi came as a UN survey showed that a third of women-led NGOs in Afghanistan were forced to stop 70% of their activities due to the ban and about a third stopped all their activities .

The UN Women’s Department said that 86% of the 151 organizations surveyed have either stopped or are partially working.

He also said that the lack of women in the distribution of aid had a significant impact on the Afghan population.

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