UN in touch with India for food supplies to Afghanistan

UNITED NATIONS: UN officials are in touch with India about food supplies to Afghanistan where 30 million people face hunger, according to Ramiz Alakbarov, who coordinates humanitarian relief efforts in the war-torn nation.

“We definitely are in touch with the authorities there and we’ve benefited from donations in 2022 and definitely the people of Afghanistan will continue to benefit from this donation,” Alakbarov, who is the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, said on Wednesday in a video conference from Kabul.

Last year, India had agreed to send 50,000 tonnes of wheat by road through Pakistan after overcoming Islamabad’s objections. India and the World Food Programme signed an agreement last month to provide Afghanistan with 20,000 tonnes of wheat that would be sent through the Chabahar Port that India is developing in Iran near the Afghanistan border, bypassing Pakistan.

That route was used by India before the 2021 Taliban takeover to send aid to Afghanistan and the US had not made an issue of the Chabahar project because of this.

Alakbarov said: “India has been a very important partner in providing aid to Afghanistan in a number of food donations. At least in 2022, I was personally involved in a number of those cases.” Meanwhile, the Taliban’s orders this week extending the ban on Afghan women working outside the home to UN employees has been condemned by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

He said: “This is a violation of the inalienable fundamental human rights of women. It also violates Afghanistan’s obligations under international human rights law, and infringes on the principle of non-discrimination, which is a core tenet underpinning the UN Charter.”

The Taliban, which had banned women from working outside their homes, extended the restriction to aid workers in December 2022, but had not enforced it for Afghan women UN employees till this week. The UN has 3,900 employees in Afghanistan, of whom 400 are Afghan women and 200 are women from elsewhere.

While contacts with the Taliban on lifting the ban are ongoing, the men working for the UN will also be staying away in solidarity with the women. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said: “Until additional clarification is received, the UN is instructing all of our national staff — men and women — not to report to the office.”

Given the scope of humanitarian work and Afghanistan’s reliance on UN assistance, especially in health, Alakbarov said the ban puts the lives of thousands of women and girls at risk. 

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