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Swiss maintain humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, despite difficulties

Afghan women in burkas
The Taliban have imposed strict conditions on women, including banning them from working with NGOs. Keystone / Stringer

Switzerland remains committed to humanitarian work in Afghanistan despite the ban on women working in NGOs, says the head of the Swiss development agency.

“It is now, when it is most difficult, that these people need us the most,” Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) director Patricia Danzi told NZZ am Sonntag in an interview.

She said the SDC was assessing how to use the CHF30 million ($33 million) budget effectively. Some of the Swiss funds could be used more in areas where Afghan women and men have fled, such as Pakistan. It is essential that women can continue to work in NGOs, she added.

The SDC coordination office currently operates from neighbouring Pakistan, as its office in Kabul was closed after the Taliban took control of the country in 2021. But Danzi said the Kabul office was still there. “The Taliban have put a note on the door saying that our diplomatic mission cannot be entered,” she told the newspaper.

Since their return to power, the Taliban have imposed severe restrictions on Afghan women, keeping them out of public jobs, forbidding them to attend secondary schools and universities, or to go to parks.

In late December, they banned NGOs from working with Afghan women, leading several organisations to suspend their activities. However, some NGOs were able to partially resume their activities after receiving assurances from the authorities that women could continue to work in the health sector.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR