The Taliban have pledged the safety and security of humanitarian staff and assured the UN of cooperation to ensure the assistance is delivered to the people of Afghanistan, a senior UN official has said. United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths met Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and head of its political office and other leaders of the outfit in Kabul on Sunday, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
"At the request of the Secretary-General, Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator for the United Nations met with Mullah Baradar and the leadership of the Taliban in Kabul to engage with the authorities on humanitarian issues,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
In the meeting, Griffiths reiterated the humanitarian community’s commitment to delivering “impartial and independent humanitarian assistance and protection to millions of people in need.”
He emphasised the critical role of women in the delivery of aid and called on all parties to ensure their rights, safety and well-being and called for all civilians – especially women and girls and minorities – to be protected at all times and expressed his solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.
“The authorities pledged that the safety and security of humanitarian staff, and humanitarian access to people in need, will be guaranteed and that humanitarian workers – both men and women – will be guaranteed freedom of movement. The authorities committed to cooperate with the humanitarian community to ensure assistance is delivered to the people of Afghanistan,” the statement said.
Noting that further meetings are expected in the coming days, Dujarric said Griffiths will also meet – and convey his thanks on behalf of the UN to – representatives of humanitarian organisations, both the UN agencies and NGOs, who remain operational in the country and have assisted eight million people this year.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen tweeted that Baradar and his delegation met Griffiths at the foreign Ministry in Kabul.
The UN official promised the continuation of humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, saying he would call for further assistance to Afghanistan during the coming meeting of donor countries.
The delegation thanked the UN contingent, assuring them of cooperation and provision of needed facilities.
The UN statement said that as Afghanistan faces a looming humanitarian catastrophe, the Secretary-General has convened a high-level ministerial meeting to address the growing humanitarian needs in the country.
“An urgent scale-up in funding is required so the lifesaving humanitarian operation can continue. The United Nations continues to stand in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan,” it said.
With half the population in Afghanistan – 18 million people – needing humanitarian assistance to survive, one-third not knowing where their next meal is coming from, more than half of all children under-five at risk of acute malnutrition, a severe drought, the second in four years, will further contribute to hunger in the months ahead, the UN said.
“Now more than ever, the people of Afghanistan need the support and solidarity of the international community,” the statement said.
(With inputs from PTI)