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Taliban lifts ban on WHO activities in Afghanistan

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The Taliban have lifted a ban on World Health Organization (WHO) activities in areas under their control, a Taliban spokesman said on Tuesday, changing a situation that has been hampering efforts to eradicate polio.

In April, the Taliban banned the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), citing what they called their “suspicious activities” during vaccination campaigns, threatening to worsen one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) is carrying out a vaccination campaign in Afghanistan, one of only three countries where polio is still endemic.

“After recognizing its shortcomings and following ongoing contacts and meetings with our representatives, the World Health Organization (WHO) has obtained permission to carry out its activities,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

During the statement, the Taliban provided safety guarantees for WHO staff but also set conditions for their return, including limiting their activities to health work, obtaining Taliban permission before hiring staff and polio vaccination campaigns in health centers only.

WHO did not immediately respond to an e-mail for comment.

The Taliban earlier this month also lifted the ban on the Red Cross, which has been providing medical support for more than 30 years.

Aid organizations operating in Afghanistan emphasize that they do not take sides.

The Taliban control or try to control more than half of Afghanistan’s 410 districts.

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