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LONDON/GENEVA., December 29, 2022 – Four of the largest international aid groups working in Afghanistan warned on Thursday that the lives of women and children were in danger if de facto authorities did not immediately reverse a ban on women NGO workers working in the country.

Save the Children, World Vision International, CARE International and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) have temporarily suspended their operations in Afghanistan following the announcement by the de facto authorities on December 24 that they cannot reach the millions of children, women and needy men. assistance without female staff.

In a joint press conference, the four international non-governmental organizations called for the immediate reversal of the ban that came a week after women were banned from attending university. Girls are already banned from secondary schools and in November they were banned from public gardens, gymnasiums and public toilets.

The most recent data shows that around 28 million people, more than half the population, including 14 million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. Some 97% of Afghans are at risk of falling below the poverty line this year. More than 1.1 million children under the age of five are severely malnourished.

Inger Ashing, chief executive of Save the Children, said her organization had been treating 73,000 children with the most life-threatening forms of malnutrition and 30,000 women through mobile clinics and that these lives were at risk without medical staff. female.

She said Save the Children had 5,700 staff and community workers in Afghanistan, of whom 2,490 were women and have worked in the country for 40 years. Since the de facto authorities took power in August 2021, Save the Children has helped almost 4 million people, including 2 million children.

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“What is tragic is that when the de facto authorities issued this decision, Afghan women, men and children were facing one of the world’s greatest humanitarian crises, including record levels of hunger. Afghanistan is facing its worst food crisis since records began with 6 million people on the brink of famine.”

“This is not an election. We cannot provide our vital support without our female colleagues. If we are not able to start programming again, the children are going to die… that is how serious the situation is.” Ashing said at the virtual press conference.

World Vision International has been working in Afghanistan for 21 years. The organization has supported six million people, three million of whom are children.

Andrew Morley, President and CEO of World Vision International, said:

“Female aid workers are vital for us to deliver principled humanitarian assistance. They are nurses, doctors, teachers, nutritionists, team leaders, community health workers, and vaccinators. Our job is to save lives and create a better future for children in Afghanistan. This requires the full commitment and leadership of our female staff.

“We have stood with the children of Afghanistan for more than two decades, through so many challenges. We must find a quick resolution, so that our female campus continues to give life to girls and women in all its fullness. They deserve no less.”

CARE International has 900 employees, 38% of whom are women, spread across 9 provinces. CARE began working in Afghanistan in 1961.

CARE International Secretary General Sofia Sprechmann Sinerio said at the press conference:

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“Women and girls are already eating last and least, at a time when an estimated 6 million Afghans are one step away from famine. One can only imagine the impact this latest devastating decision will have on a population already facing extreme hardship. Humanitarian women are some of the most effective in the world; they are a non-negotiable part of aid delivery, which cannot discriminate.”

The NRC currently has 1,541 staff members in Afghanistan, of whom 469 are women. Since 15 August 2021, NRC teams have assisted more than 870,000 people affected by displacement in 18 provinces of Afghanistan with support ranging from emergency responses to floods, earthquakes and droughts, education, shelter, assistance legal, protection, livelihoods, food and water security. This year, NRC provided assistance to 3,700 families to prepare them for winter. These life-saving winterization activities are now on hold due to the ban.

Adam Combs, NRC Regional Director, said:

“We cannot function without our female staff; they are a vital part of our humanitarian response and make up about a third of our workforce. We need unimpeded access for both men and women to our work.”

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