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UN temporarily halts some operations in Afghanistan

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Kabul: The United Nations said on Wednesday that some “time-critical” programs in Afghanistan have temporarily stopped and warned many other activities will also likely need to be paused because of ban on women aid workers.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths, the heads of UN agencies and several aid groups said in a joint statement that women’s participation in aid delivery is not negotiable and must continue, calling on the Afghan authorities to reverse the decision.

“Banning women from humanitarian work has immediate life-threatening consequences for all Afghans. Already, some time-critical program have had to stop temporarily due to lack of female staff,” read the statement.

“We cannot ignore the operational constraints now facing us as a humanitarian community,” it said. “We will endeavor to continue lifesaving, time-critical activities … But we foresee that many activities will need to be paused as we cannot deliver principled humanitarian assistance without female aid workers.”

The ban on female aid workers was announced by the Afghan interim administration on Saturday. It follows a ban imposed last week on women attending universities. Girls were stopped from attending high school in March.

“No country can afford to exclude half of its population from contributing to society,” said the statement, which was also signed by the heads of UNICEF, the World Food Program, the World Health Organization, the UN Development Program, and the UN high commissioners for refugees and human rights.

Separately, 12 countries and the EU jointly called on the Afghan governing body to reverse the ban on female aid workers and allow women and girls to return to school.

The statement was issued by the foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Britain, the United States and the EU.

The ban on female aid workers “puts at risk millions of Afghans who depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival,” the statement said.

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