The aid community is facing increasing obstacles from Taliban authorities in carrying out its work in Afghanistan, in violation of agreements that spell out conditions for continued humanitarian assistance by the United Nations, the Islamabad-based Office of the UN Coordinator for Afghanistan said today.
According to the UN Coordinator, repeated denials of access to communities in need of assistance have occurred recently, in particular in Hazarajat, where UN staff were not allowed to reach tens of thousands of people displaced by fighting, including most of the population of Yakawlang District.
In addition, unsubstantiated allegations, including charges of "immoral behaviour," harassment, arrests, and even physical abuse of humanitarian personnel are on the upswing. UN officials are particularly concerned about the abuse of Afghans working for the UN and NGO community. "We are not prepared to tolerate abuses against our staff," said UN Coordinator Erick de Mul. "National staff form the backbone of the assistance effort in Afghanistan, without whom all assistance would halt."
Despite the ongoing civil war, the UN has consistently underscored its commitment to providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan's civilian population, as long as security permits it.
Since 1998, the UN has worked in Taliban-controlled areas under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and a security protocol agreed to by Taliban authorities. The agreements include the procedures and standards that must be followed if the UN is to continue its humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. According to UN officials, the latest incidents in Afghanistan have constituted a violation of several provisions of the MOU. Repeated attempts to get in contact with Taliban officials in Kandahar have been unsuccessful, the UN Coordinator said.
In other news, the UN Coordinator urged respect for a ceasefire that would allow a vaccination campaign by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to take place between 19 and 21 May. "Both sides had agreed with UNICEF and WHO to respect a ceasefire during the polio immunization campaigns in 2000 and in March and April 2001," the Coordinator's office said in a statement. "It is trusted that this will be the case again. Every child from birth up to five years of age must be vaccinated."