Kabul: Concerns over the consequences on Afghan women of the withdrawal foreign troops were discussed during a meeting of women members of the Afghan National Assembly and parliamentarians of other countries on Thursday.
Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs Hasina Safi; Chair of the House Committee on Women’s affairs and Human Rights Nahid Farid; member of the parliament Shinkai Karookhail, and Afghan Women’s Network Executive Director Mary Akrami called on the US Senate, particularly Senator Jeanne Shaheen, to continue their support and cooperation for Afghan women’s practical and meaningful presence in the peace talks and the political future of Afghanistan.
Senator Shaheen lauded the advances made by the Afghan women over the past decades and promised their support in strengthening it further.
However, there are also concerns about the reducing access to essential healthcare for women due to fall in donor support, as per a Human Rights Watch report released on Thursday. What is more alarming is that more cuts are likely in the coming months following the troop withdrawal, states the report which is titled – I Would Like Four Kids—If We Stay Alive: Women’s Access to Health Care in Afghanistan.
“International donors are locked in a waiting game to see whether the withdrawal of foreign troops will result in the Taliban gaining greater control of the country. But this is no excuse for cutting funds for essential services that aid groups have managed to deliver in insecure and Taliban-controlled areas,” said Heather Barr, interim co-director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch.
At least 56 people had been interviewed in Afghanistan in March and April, including 34 women and 18 Afghans working in the healthcare sector for the report and the public health minister.
The Afghan government has been dependent on international aid over the past decades to fund its essential services like healthcare. But the aid has been declining. In 2013, member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee contributed US$141 million to health and population assistance in Afghanistan. By 2019, this figure had dropped 26 percent to $105 million.
Due to the pandemic, in 2020, the country’s sustainable domestic revenues fell 2.8 percent compared with 2019.
In addition to the announced US withdrawal, other NATO member countries plan to withdraw their forces alongside the US. Afghans interviewed expressed fears that the Taliban would obtain increasing control over their lives or that the already-high level of violence in the country would escalate. Both growing Taliban control and rising levels of violence have implications for donor support to Afghanistan, including for women’s health.
It is crucial for donors to prioritize meeting the urgent needs of Afghans—including those of women and girls for health care, Human Rights Watch said. “This critical moment is no time to abandon Afghan women, who often face a brutal choice between feeding their families or caring for their health,” Barr said.