Taliban Urge Female Staff of Public Health Dept to Return to Work

The Taliban in a statement on Friday urged female employees of the country’s Public Health Department to attend their duties, amid reports of women being denied to work after the insurgent group’s rapid takeover of the country.

Known to be heinous in their treatment of women, the Taliban has lately sought to project a more moderate image after their blitz in the war-torn nation, saying females would be party to limited rights under the nation’s new government. However, reports on ground scratch this claim, and the group’s latest statement has more to do with the humanitarian and health crisis being witnessed, instead of freedom to women.

Many Afghans fear a repeat of the Taliban’s brutal interpretation of Islamic law, as well as violent retribution for working with foreign militaries, Western missions or the previous US-backed government.

There are particular concerns for women, who were largely banned from education and employment and could only leave the house with a male chaperone during the group’s 1996-2001 rule.

“All female employees of the Ministry of Public Health of the Islamic Emirate are informed to attend their duties regularly in the capital and provinces. There is no problem or obstacle for their arrival by the Islamic Emirate,” tweeted Dr M Naeem, who claims to be the Spokesman of the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Health Facilities Running Out of Supplies, Personnel

Health facilities across the violence-ravaged country are rapidly running out of supplies, and could also soon face a shortage of medical personnel, the World Health Organization warned Friday.

Twin suicide bombs ripped through crowds outside Kabul airport on Thursday, killing scores of Afghans as well as 13 US troops and adding to logistical difficulties faced by WHO to deliver medical equipment and medicine.

“We have only a few days of supplies left and are exploring all options to bring more medicines into the country,” said Rick Brennan, the WHO emergencies director in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Speaking to journalists in Geneva via videolink from Cairo, he acknowledged there were “multiple security and logistics constraints”, adding that bringing supplies in through Kabul airport was no longer an option after the blasts.

A WHO partner, the Italian NGO Emergency, operates a hospital in Kabul and is “overwhelmed” following the blasts, Brennan said, adding “they’ve got great pressure on their supplies”. Brennan stressed the towering needs in Afghanistan even before Thursday’s carnage and said that WHO had planned three airlifts of supplies into the country that had been cancelled following the Taliban takeover on August 15.

The UN, he said, was now looking at other options, including airlifting supplies through the Mazar-i-Sharif airport, with the first flights hopefully going in the next few days. On a more positive note, Brennan said nearly all of the 2,200 health facilities the WHO was monitoring in the war-torn country remained open and functioning.

But he said there were also growing concerns about shortages of medical staff, many of whom are among those fleeing the country. “We are hearing of healthcare workers leaving, health authorities leaving,” he said, adding that the “enormous brain-drain … is a big problem for all of us in every sector.”

In addition, a number of women health workers were staying away from work, maybe out of fear, Brennan said.

Taliban’s Promises on Women ‘False’

Despite the Taliban’s assurances that they would respect Afghan women’s rights and allow them to work and be educated in accordance with Islam, a former Afghan judge had previously said Afghan women are being tortured and killed by the Taliban, after their takeover. As reported by Sky News, Najla Ayoubi, who has been talking to Afghan women, received horrific examples of what they are going through.

According to Ayoubi, one woman was “put on fire because she was accused of bad cooking for Taliban fighters” in northern Afghanistan. “They are forcing people to give them food and cook them food. Also, there are so many young women are being in the past few weeks being shipped into neighbouring countries in coffins to be used as sex slaves,” said Ayoubi.

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