Aid officials in Afghanistan face being part of a Taliban security convoy in a “new way of working”, according to a senior charity figure.
Sam Mort, chief of communications at Unicef Afghanistan, said the government used to provide a security convoy when workers went out on field missions, but now it will be the Taliban.
Ms Mort, from Kingussie in the Highlands of Scotland, said the Taliban has “made it perfectly clear” that they want Unicef to stay, adding that there is “constructive” dialogue between the two.
Speaking from the Unicef office in the UN compound in Kabul, Ms Morton told the PA news agency: “I haven’t left all week, since last Sunday in fact.
“But typically we would be out in the field, we would be visiting our programmes, we would be talking to the people that we’re helping, we would be meeting partners, and that has started to happen in the last couple of days.
“I will be out on a field mission in the next few days.”
Asked how she will feel about going out, she said: “It’s certainly a new experience.
“Previously when we went on field missions the government would give us a security convoy, and now that security convoy is going to be the Taliban.
“So that’s a new way of working for us, but as I say we have constructive dialogue with them, we’ve worked with them for some time, so I think for everybody, for them and for us, it’s just a new way of working and something that we will work out together.”
She added: “We’re just working with the Taliban, as we have for a long time now, in a constructive way, to make sure that we can get access to everywhere that we need and to ensure that our staff are safe when they go out to deliver these programmes.”
Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore said around 10 million children across Afghanistan need humanitarian assistance to survive.
She said an estimated one million children are projected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition over the course of this year and could die without treatment, while an estimated 4.2 million children are out of school, including more than 2.2 million girls.
“This is the grim reality facing Afghan children and it remains so regardless of ongoing political developments and changes in government.
“We anticipate that the humanitarian needs of children and women will increase over the coming months amidst a severe drought and consequent water scarcity, the devastating socioeconomic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and the onset of winter.
“That is why, after 65 years in Afghanistan striving to improve the lives of children and women, Unicef will remain on the ground now and in the days to come.
“We are deeply committed to the country’s children and there is far more work to be done on their behalf,” Ms Fore said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef have called for the immediate establishment of a humanitarian airbridge for the sustained and unimpeded delivery of aid into Afghanistan.
They are also following up with all UN and international partners to explore options for expediting aid shipments.