Afghanistan's Taliban administration has said forbidding Afghan women from working for the United Nations was an "internal issue," after the global organisation expressed alarm at the decision and said it would review its operations there.
In the Taliban administration's first statement on the decision since the UN acknowledged hearing of the new restrictions last week, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Wednesday the policy "should be respected by all sides".
The United Nations has said it cannot accept the decision as it would breach its charter. It has asked all its staff not to go into its offices while it holds consultations and reviews its operations until May 5. On Tuesday, the UN Mission to Afghanistan said the Taliban administration would be responsible for any negative humanitarian impacts stemming from the ban.
The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan
Mujahid, in a statement, blamed foreign governments for the humanitarian crisis spurred by sanctions on its banking sector and the freezing of Afghan central bank assets held overseas, some of which have been placed in a Swiss trust fund.
Some diplomats and aid officials in Afghanistan and around the world have expressed concerns donors may withdraw support to Afghanistan's humanitarian aid programme, the largest in the world, and that implementing programmes and reaching women in the conservative country would not be possible without female workers.
Taliban authorities in December said most Afghan female NGO workers would not be allowed to work.
The UN humanitarian agency has said a huge funding plan for Afghanistan for 2023 is less than 5% funded.
"If funding is not urgently secured, millions of Afghans will be staring down the barrel of famine, disease and death," it said on Wednesday.