Taliban to ban unapproved humanitarian staff

The ban on humanitarian work does not apply only to women, but could touch everyone, at least in a south-western Afghan province. While the United Nations looks at how to respond to the new restrictions, cash transfers to Afghanistan have been suspended. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan notes that aid money does not go to the Taliban.

Kabul (AsiaNews) – Not only have the Taliban decided to prevent women from working for non-governmental organisations, but in Nimruz province, in the south-western part of the country, they have banned all NGOs from hiring staff without the approval of the authorities.

This additional restriction will complicate humanitarian assistance, already difficult and precarious after the Taliban seized power again in August 2021. Since then the assets of the previous government in US banks were frozen because the international community, including less democratic countries, is opposed to recognising the Taliban government.

Since 2021, Afghanistan’s economic situation has worsened. As a result, it is estimated that about 20 million people, about half the population, will suffer acute hunger by March this year, while almost the entire country has fallen into extreme poverty.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is getting set to hold an extraordinary meeting to decide how to proceed in response to the ban on women working for aid agencies. International money transfers that can help alleviate the suffering of the Afghan population have been temporarily halted, with an immediate depreciation of the Afghani, the national currency, and a rise in costs.

Yesterday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) issued a statement explaining how foreign aid is managed. This follows a report in late December 2022 by the US magazine Foreign Policy (FP) accusing the Taliban of stealing funds earmarked for the population and diverting it in favour of their supporters.

This is aimed at financing a series of illegal activities and keeping people onside with the faction-divided Taliban; otherwise, disappointed with measures taken so far, some might consider joining the local branch of the Islamic State, the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP).

According to sources cited by FP, the money never reaches those who need it; instead, some goes into the Taliban-controlled Central Bank, and some gets deposited in the Afghanistan International Bank, where UN agencies hold private bank accounts.

UNAMA has a different take on the matter. In its statement, it says:

“All cash brought into Afghanistan is placed in designated UN accounts in a private bank for use by the United Nations.

“All these funds are then distributed directly to the United Nations entities, as well as to a small number of approved and vetted humanitarian partners in Afghanistan.

“None of the cash brought into Afghanistan is deposited in the Central Bank of Afghanistan nor provided to the Taliban de facto authorities by the UN.

Since December 2021, the United Nations has managed to bring in only US$ 1.8 billion to Afghanistan. It launched an appeal for US$ 4.4 billion in January 2022, raising it to US$ 4.6 for 2023.