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Taliban Announces 'Ban' On WHO, Red Cross Amid Vaccination Drive

Afghan women and children wait to receive medical service at the pediatric center of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Kabul.
Afghan women and children wait to receive medical service at the pediatric center of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Kabul.

The Taliban has announced a “ban” on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in areas the extremist group controls in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the militants on April 11 cited what the group called "suspicious" actions by the international organizations during a vaccination drive.

"They have not stuck to the commitments they had…and they are acting suspiciously during vaccination campaigns," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said without providing details.

He added that other aid groups were free to continue operations.

The WHO is carrying out a vaccination campaign in Afghanistan, one of the few remaining countries where polio rates are still rising.

WHO spokesman Jin Ni told AFP in Afghanistan that organization officials "acknowledge the reports and are working on better understanding the situation."

Activities Suspended

Spokesman Robin Waudo said that, in view of the Taliban remarks, the ICRC had suspended activities in the war-torn country, where many areas have little access to health care.

"We acknowledge this announcement, and have suspended our activities in the country due to the withdrawal of security guarantees," Waudo told the news agency.

Sanela Bajrambasic, spokeswoman for the Red Cross in Geneva, told Reuters that the ICRC 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.

She added that the organization was concerned about the well-being of the Afghan people.

"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."

The Red Cross considers itself a neutral aid organization and operates in areas controlled by both the government and Taliban forces.

Difficulties have previously surfaced between the Red Cross and the Taliban, forcing the humanitarian group to suspect operations there.

In August 2017, the militant group canceled a "security agreement" with the relief group after accusing it of failing to meet its stated obligation to monitor detention conditions and provide medical aid to Taliban prisoners in Afghan jails.

The Red Cross suspended operations following the Taliban move, but resumed activities in October following subsequent negotiations.

In October 2017, the Red Cross closed two of its offices in the country and scaled down its operations following the killing of seven of its staff in a series of attacks.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and VOA
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