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The international community must ensure the immediate flow of aid and supplies to Afghanistan

Together with Afghan human rights activists, humanitarian organisations, and civil society activists around the world, WILPF is urgently calling on the international community to use an effective and practical way of ensuring financial aid and supplies can be transferred to Afghans.

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Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
6 October 2021

The international community must ensure the immediate flow of aid and supplies to Afghanistan 

Together with Afghan human rights activists, humanitarian organisations, and civil society activists around the world, WILPF is urgently calling on the international community to use an effective and practical way of ensuring financial aid and supplies can be transferred to Afghans. This must be done without compromising the rights of women or ceding control of these resources. 

Since the country’s rapid takeover by the Taliban in early August, foreign aid to Afghanistan has almost entirely ceased. Yet with funding from the international community – including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, foreign governments, and humanitarian agencies – comprising nearly 75 per cent of Afghanistan’s public expenditure budget prior to the Taliban’s rise to power, its sudden absence has left the country on the brink of collapse. 

The healthcare system has been particularly hard hit, with $600 million in international healthcare aid now frozen. 

For the past two months, doctors and other healthcare workers – including 14,000 women – have not been paid. Prevented from accessing basic necessities, including food and medicine, they are unable to continue treating patients and health clinics are closing. 

The World Health Organization recently noted in a statement that the country is now experiencing a surge in cases of measles, while progress made over the past 20 years to significantly reduce rates of maternal and infant mortality and polio is at risk of being undone in a matter of weeks. 

Meanwhile, the country’s 120,000 women teachers have not only had their salaries cut off, but have been banned from teaching by the Taliban. Women working in rural areas – already one of Afghanistan’s most marginalised groups – are also unable to work or receive payment. 

In all cases, the lives, health, and well-being of these women and their families are at extreme risk and the international community must act now to protect their human rights.

Aid paused to prevent Taliban from accessing funds 

After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in mid-August, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund immediately paused their disbursements to the country while the United States froze over $9 billion in accounts with the Afghan Central Bank. 

Other aid groups and foreign governments have similarly ceased the flow of funding into the country, resulting in massive and worsening shortages of food, medicine, money, and other critical supplies. 

The international community had a valid rationale behind the freezing of assets: not doing so would mean de facto recognition of the Taliban by giving the group control over economic resources without conditions. As a result, any leverage to pressure the Taliban to uphold human rights, and women’s rights in particular, would be lost. Notably, the Taliban remain listed as a global terrorist group by the United Nations Security Council, and numerous countries have placed broad sanctions on the militants. 

But aid organisations and activists are demanding that the international community recognise the gravity of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan and take immediate action. 

“The question is how to ensure direct funding is provided for the salaries of public sector workers – which is not considered to be ‘humanitarian aid’ – without allowing funds to get into the hands of the Taliban,” says Madeleine Rees, Secretary-General of WILPF. 

Rees suggests that the simplest mechanism would be to set up a trust fund with specifically worded objectives so that the UN, or another body overseeing the process, can make payments directly to the trust’s beneficiaries. 

“This would be in addition to the humanitarian aid, which would continue to be delivered through specialised agencies and NGOs,” she says. “I understand that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank are in discussion as to how to do this. WILPF has also demanded the creation of such a trust, along with Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council.” 

Rees adds that she is concerned the UNDP and the World Bank, which do not have track records of enacting programmes and policies rooted in gender analysis and women’s rights, may not be focused on ensuring women’s rights are upheld when it comes to how the trust is set up. 

“Aid policy seems to be being made without consultation with women either inside or outside Afghanistan,” she says. “Without women’s participation, the UN and other players will be essentially institutionalising the inequalities created by the Taliban – making it even harder for women to exercise their basic human rights.” 

WILPF Afghanistan president Jamila Afghani says that some engagement with the Taliban may be necessary to enable the flow of aid to Afghans, but that sanctions against the group must be maintained until the group follows international norms on human rights, and specifically on women’s rights. 

“While we understand the international community’s concerns over allowing funding to get into the hands of the Taliban, what needs to be prioritised right now is the safety and well-being of the Afghan people,” she says. “The international community must do whatever it possibly can to ensure aid is able to flow into the country.”

The US recently announced that it has authorised various government and non-governmental groups to engage with the Taliban to provide humanitarian assistance, and has issued a license allowing food and medicine exports into Afghanistan. 

But humanitarian organisations and Afghan activists are sounding the alarm that the aid is not coming quickly enough, or from enough sources. 

“Afghans are facing a catastrophe, particularly as the country heads into winter,” says Afghani. “The world must not turn its back.” 

Join WILPF in demanding aid for Afghanistan. Share this blog on social media, write to your representatives, and spread the word!

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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