UN top official met with Taliban after aid organisations suspend operations in Afghanistan

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By Euronews  with AP
A Taliban fighter stands guard as a woman walks past in Kabul, Afghanistan
A Taliban fighter stands guard as a woman walks past in Kabul, Afghanistan   -   Copyright  Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

The United Nations' top official in Kabul met with a Taliban minister on Monday after the government banned women from working with non-governmental organizations.

The UN mission’s acting head, Ramiz Alakbarov, met with the Taliban economy minister Qari Din Mohammed Hanif and called for a reversal of the ban.

The initial block on Saturday ordered all local and foreign NGOs to stop their female staff from working until further notice, causing several major international aid organizations to suspend their operations in Afghanistan.

"We cannot effectively reach children, women and men in desperate need in Afghanistan without our female staff," said Save the Children, Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE International in a joint statement after halting their work in the country.

"We call on the Taliban authorities to reverse this decision as soon as possible,” Neil Turner, the Norwegian Refugee Council's country director in Afghanistan, added in a separate statement.

“This comes at the worst possible time when the economy of Afghanistan is collapsing, and we need women as part of the workforce to enable the economy to recover."

The International Rescue Committee also said it was suspending its work in the country, as more than 3,000 members of its 8,000 staff are women.

AfghanAid announced it was suspending operations while it consults with other aid organisations. And Islamic Relief said it will now only provide lifesaving health care in Afghanistan.

The ban could see millions of people facing food shortages and go without education, health care and other critical services, as half of the country relies on humanitarian aid.

It will also impact the individual lives of many women.

"I'm the only breadwinner of my family. If I lose my job, my family of 15 members will die of hunger," said a woman in Afghanistan who has been working with NGOs for decades

"While the world is celebrating the arrival of the new year, Afghanistan has become a hell for women."

The Taliban justified its ban, alleging that some female employees at NGOs weren't wearing the hijab correctly. It follows a similar ban last week blocking women from accessing university education, sparking international condemnation and protests.