The heads of a key UN-backed committee on Afghanistan said on Thursday that banning women from humanitarian work has immediate “life-threatening consequences” for all Afghans.
"The decision by Afghanistan's de facto authorities to ban women from working in humanitarian non-governmental organizations is a major blow for vulnerable communities, for women, for children, and the entire country," said the principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Afghanistan that includes heads of multiple UN agencies and civil society groups.
They said female staff includes teachers, nutrition experts, team leaders, community health workers, vaccinators, nurses, doctors, and heads of organizations, and are vital to the Afghanistan humanitarian response.
"They have access to populations their male colleagues cannot reach and are critical to safeguarding the communities," the principals said.
"They save lives. Their professional expertise is indispensable. Their participation in aid delivery is not negotiable and must continue," they added.
Humanitarian organizations said they continue engaging the Taliban, which seized power in Afghanistan last year on Aug. 15 as officials of the US-backed Kabul administration fled, and foreign forces withdrew.
The UN-backed group said it would strive to continue lifesaving 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," they said.
They urged the Taliban "to reconsider and reverse this directive, and all directives banning women from schools, universities and public life.
"No country can afford to exclude half its population from contributing to society."