The New Humanitarian Annual Report 2021

  1. Home
  2. Asia
  3. Afghanistan

A tight squeeze on humanitarian space

Taliban insurgents are accused of using children for military purposes.
(Ahmad/IRIN)

Whilst there is evidence that some civilians and businesspeople pay protection money to Taliban insurgents especially in southern Afghanistan, such an option simply does not exist for aid agencies - even if they need to ensure safe passage for vital humanitarian aid.

For Haji Abdullah, doing business in Kandahar Province, southern Afghanistan, is impossible without bribing insurgent commanders who often approach him for cash, telephone top-up cards, clothes or motorcycles.

“If I don’t comply with their demands they can easily make a lot of trouble for me, or even kill me,” the 52-year-old businessman told IRIN, asking that his real name not be disclosed.

The Taliban have established a "shadow government" in parts of Afghanistan and are seeking to extend their influence and control, according to US defence sources, and the UN has acknowledged that the influence of the insurgents is beginning to affect development activities, too.

Read more
 New IRIN book on loss in childbirth
 WFP suspends aid in northwestern Afghanistan after attack
 Warning over heightened risk to NGO staff in 2010
 Could foreign troop surge exacerbate vulnerability?
 Over 2,400 civilian deaths in 2009 - UNAMA
  District 12 Kabul (Nov 2009)

“In the south, south-east and east, isolated reports were received regarding government officials being forced to bribe insurgent commanders in order to facilitate the continued operation of schools and allow for the implementation of certain development projects. This highlights the heightened ability of the insurgents to exert their authority and influence over the implementation of development activities,” the UN Secretary-General said in a report to the Security Council in December 2009. 

Laurent Sailard, director of ACBAR, a consortium of over 100 Afghan and foreign NGOs, said aid workers must not make payments to insurgents for security, access or safe passage.

“Buying a passage for humanitarian convoys or access is a bad strategy with long-term negative impacts. Demands could increase, and if not satisfied could lead to increasing threats. It is a never-ending process that always leads to the worst,” he said, adding that aid workers had to ensure access and security through acceptance among local communities and impartial dialogue with belligerent parties.

No discrimination

However, people living in areas controlled or influenced by insurgents - even if they back the insurgents - must not be discriminated against in terms of the provision of aid, aid agencies say.

Afghan and international forces are trying to retake control of Musa Qala District from Taliban insurgents.

Ahmad/IRIN
Afghan and international forces are trying to retake control of Musa Qala District from Taliban insurgents.
http://www.irinnews.org/photo
Thursday, December 6, 2007
A tight squeeze on humanitarian space
Afghan and international forces are trying to retake control of Musa Qala District from Taliban insurgents.

Photo: Ahmad/IRIN
Aid to pro-Taliban communities is possible but rare becuase of insecurity

“It should not be a concern for humanitarian actors if a beneficiary community is supportive of the Taliban. The aid must be needs-based and regardless of gender, linguistic, religious, and political or any other consideration,” said ACBAR’s Sailard.

“The ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] delivers humanitarian assistance to all those conflict-affected persons in need of it, irrespective of their affiliation,” said Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, ICRC’s communications officer in Kabul.

Aid to pro-Taliban communities or people living in areas under Taliban control is possible, but in practice few if any aid agencies are involved in this due to widespread insecurity.

The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO), which provides security advice to NGOs, has said armed opposition groups have a presence in over 97 percent of the country and have warned that NGO staff face heightened risks in 2010.

ad/cb/bp


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

Right now, we’re working with contributors on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries to tell the stories of people enduring and responding to a rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis.

We’re documenting the threats to humanitarian response in the country and providing a platform for those bearing the brunt of the invasion. Our goal is to bring you the truth at a time when disinformation is rampant. 

But while much of the world’s focus may be on Ukraine, we are continuing our reporting on myriad other humanitarian disasters – from Haiti to the Sahel to Afghanistan to Myanmar. We’ve been covering humanitarian crises for more than 25 years, and our journalism has always been free, accessible for all, and – most importantly – balanced. 

You can support our journalism from just $5 a month, and every contribution will go towards our mission. 

Support The New Humanitarian today.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.

Join