Woman in burqa with her two children speaking with woman kneeling holding her hands and man sitting in the floor in the background

"Tying the hands of NGOs will cost lives": CARE International Secretary General Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro

Remarks by CARE International Secretary General Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, UN Press Briefing on Afghanistan

NEW YORK, 30 January 2023 - Thank you, Martin, and to all the members of the press for joining us today – your role in shining a spotlight on this tragic situation in Afghanistan has truly never been so critical.

And the situation is now critical.

Two thirds of the Afghan population, that is 28 million people, are in dire need of aid, with six million one step away from famine.

As we all know, the crisis is driven by three years of drought-like conditions, a crippling economic decline, and the effects of 40 years of conflict.  

During our visit last week, we saw first-hand how Afghans are facing what is now the coldest winter of the last 15 years. With temperatures falling as low as minus 29 degrees Celsius, this cold has led to the loss of many lives, as we have seen in the last days in the news.

For communities across Afghanistan, and particularly for women and children, the situation is truly horrendous. The ongoing erosion of women and girls’ rights is making the situation for them and their families far worse.

We visited a clinic on the outskirts of Kabul run by UNICEF with a local partner.  Since the authorisation by the DFA to continue health and nutrition activities with female staff, these critical services are now operating again.

I met a mother who was there with three of her seven children, all under the age of 12.

Her youngest child, just a baby, was severely malnourished. In sub-freezing conditions, they arrived with holes in their thin clothes, no socks. 

She told us that they have no money for food, or for heating, and how her and her children went to bed every night hungry and cold.  The staff at the clinic shared horrific statistics with us: 15% of the children seeking help had severe acute malnutrition.

This is simply unacceptable.

These, and other services are the backbone of the humanitarian response in Afghanistan, where local and international NGOs carry out 70% of the humanitarian response. 

So let there be no ambiguity; tying the hands of NGOs by barring women from giving lifesaving support to other women, will cost lives. 

We are insisting on the repeal of the edict and, as Martin said, we are also seeking additional authorizations in other sectors so that NGOs, both local and international, can continue their life saving work in ways that do not discriminate. We stand firm in our support and solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.

Thank you.