Top UN relief official urges Taliban to improve working conditions for aid staff

25 June 2001

Welcoming the release of four Afghan aid workers, a top United Nations relief official urged the Taliban, who had detained the staff, to improve "in real terms" the working environment for humanitarian personnel in Afghanistan.

A statement released in New York said that the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kenzo Oshima, was relieved to learn that four Afghan women working with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul had been released from custody on 23 June after a three-day detention by Taliban authorities.

"[Mr. Oshima] is concerned, however, about the increasing harassment and abuse of Afghan national staff of the UN and non-governmental community, and restrictions against programmes which attempt to help women as well as men," the statement said.

Noting that humanitarian aid currently reached well over 4 million people in Afghanistan, one of the world's worst crisis areas, the statement stressed that the recent pattern of harassment represented a general narrowing of space available for humanitarian agencies to operate effectively, and might limit the ability of aid agencies to continue helping Afghans in need.


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