G7 foreign ministers urge Taliban to reverse 'reckless' ban on female aid workers

Six major international humanitarian groups have suspended operations in response to the policy

Afghans queue for aid at a camp after an earthquake in Paktika province, Afghanistan, in June. AP
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G7 foreign ministers have expressed concern that the Taliban’s “reckless and dangerous order” barring women from working with aid organisations could put millions of Afghan lives at risk.

The Group of Seven ― made up of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, the UK and the US ― is the latest voice to join the global condemnation of the groups’ decision.

Sixteen months after seizing control of Afghanistan, the Taliban has not followed through on its pledges to protect women’s rights, banning women from attending universities and barring work in the aid sector. The move prompted global outrage and protests in some Afghan cities.

G7 foreign ministers joined those from Australia, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands to issue a joint statement urging Afghanistan’s rulers to “urgently reverse” the policy on female aid workers.

The group said they were “gravely concerned that the Taliban’s reckless and dangerous order barring female employees of national and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from the workplace puts at risk millions of Afghans who depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival”.

“We call on the Taliban to urgently reverse this decision,” the statement added. “Women are absolutely central to humanitarian and basic needs operations.

“Unless they participate in aid delivery in Afghanistan, NGOs will be unable to reach the country’s most vulnerable people to provide food, medicine, winterisation, and other materials and services they need to live. This would also affect the humanitarian assistance provided by international organisations, as international organisations utilise NGOs to deliver such materials and services.”

Taliban bans women from universities - in pictures

The statement from the G7 and its allies lambasted the Taliban’s role in undercutting "the rights, freedoms, and welfare of the Afghan people, particularly women and girls”.

Six international aid organisations have suspended operations in the landlocked country in response to the Taliban’s change in policy for female workers.

They include Christian Aid, ActionAid, Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE.

Ray Hasan, head of global programmes at Christian Aid, said millions of Afghans are on the "verge of starvation".

He said the ban on women aid workers would "only curtail our ability to help the growing number of people in need".

"Reports that families are so desperate they have been forced to sell their children to buy food are utterly heart-breaking," he added.

The United Nations in August warned that up to six million Afghans were at risk of famine and half of the country’s 39 million people required humanitarian help.

More than a million children were “estimated to be suffering from the most severe, life-threatening form of malnutrition” and at risk of dying without proper treatment, according to UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths.

Updated: December 29, 2022, 1:27 PM