Taliban’s decision to ban Afghan women from working with the United Nations will cost children’s lives

Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell

05 April 2023
Afghanistan. A UNICEF programme specialist informs residents in Parun about UNICEF’s cash transfer programme.

NEW YORK, 5 April 2023 – “Afghanistan is home to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. More than 28 million people, including over 15 million children, need humanitarian and protection assistance this year—a staggering increase of 4 million people over 2022. Hunger and disease are lurking. And the economy is in tatters.

“Yet despite this devastating situation, the de facto authorities have taken the unconscionable and confounding decision to ban Afghan women from working with the United Nations in Afghanistan, including UNICEF. Coming on the heels of the decree banning Afghan women from working with NGOs, this decision is yet another affront to women’s fundamental rights and further undermines the delivery of humanitarian assistance across the country.

“Afghan women are the lifeblood of our humanitarian response. They are highly skilled and uniquely placed to reach the most vulnerable Afghans—including children and women, the sick and elderly, as well as those living with disabilities. They have access to populations that their male colleagues cannot reach. They are nutrition experts, community health and social workers, teachers, vaccinators, nurses, doctors and much more.

“With one of the largest operations on the ground, UNICEF is aiming to reach 19 million Afghans with essential services this year alone. We are providing treatment for severely malnourished children. We are making sure families have warm clothes and that communities have safe water to drink. And we are getting lifesaving vaccines and other supplies to medical centers. 

“Female workers are vital to the success of our work. Without them, the humanitarian disaster unfolding inside Afghanistan will intensify, and more children will die.

“UNICEF echoes the UN Secretary-General in strongly condemning the de facto authorities’ decision to ban Afghan women from working with the United Nations in Afghanistan.

“We strongly urge the de facto authorities to revoke the decision and reverse all measures that restrict women’s and girls’ rights to work, education, and freedom of movement.”


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