The United Nations has asked all its 3,300 female and male staff in Afghanistan to stay home for two days and stop working after its officials “received word of an order” by the Taliban that bans female national employees of the UN agencies from work on Tuesday.
UN officials in Afghanistan “received word of an order by the de facto authorities that bans female national staff members of the United Nations from working,” the Reuters quoted the UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric as saying to reporters in New York.
Dujarric has said that the UN will meet the Taliban’s foreign ministry’s officials on Wednesday to seek further clarity, adding that around 400 women were working for the UN agencies in Afghanistan.
This comes shortly after the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed “serious concern” in a tweet late on Tuesday that its female staff were prevented from reporting to work in the country’s eastern Nangahar province.
“There was a much more official communication made in (Nangarhar provincial capital) Jalalabad. We were told through various conduits that this applied to the whole country,” said Dujarric, adding that the UN agencies had not received anything officially in writing.
The Taliban’s unwritten and oral order also prompted the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to strongly condemn its enforcement in Nangarhar. “If this measure is not reversed, it will inevitably undermine our ability to deliver life-saving aid to the people who need it,” the UN Chief warned.
According to the UN’s report, a record 28.3 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2023 with about 20 million facing severe hunger and 6 million on the verge of famine.
The humanitarian crisis is exacerbated by the Taliban banning female NGO workers in December 2022. The Taliban has yet to comment regarding the new ban its authorities have orally made on the UN female staff.