Afghan Taliban Bans WHO and Red Cross Work Amid Vaccination Drive

By Reuters Staff

April 12, 2019

KABUL (Reuters) - The Afghan Taliban have banned the World Health Organization and the Red Cross from operating in areas under their control until further notice, a spokesman said on Thursday, citing unspecified "suspicious" actions during vaccination campaigns.

The WHO is carrying out a vaccination campaign in Afghanistan, one of the last countries in the world where polio is still endemic.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said fighting across Afghanistan had created a "complex situation" and some charitable organizations including the WHO and the Red Cross were not operating in accordance with the situation.

"They have not stuck to the commitments they had with Islamic Emirates, and they are acting suspiciously during vaccination campaigns," he said, providing no details.

Other aid groups were free to continue operations, he said.

The Red Cross says it tries to build relationships with all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, where it has worked for more than 30 years.

Sanela Bajrambasic, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, said the organization was seeking clarification but remained committed to Afghanistan.

"What we can say at this point is that we have seen the same statement on their website and we will be seeking to engage bilaterally with Taliban on it," she said, adding that people in Afghanistan were its main concern.

"They continuously bear the brunt of hostilities, and there is the clear need for humanitarian assistance, as well as for a renewal of commitment of all parties to make it happen."

There was no immediate comment from the WHO.

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