Letter: Victims of Taliban

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The Independent Culture
Sir: We were astonished at Peter Popham's suggestion that the right of women to healthcare, education and employment in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is an inappropriate "Western assumption" on the part of aid agencies ("How the children of Kabul are sacrificed to sexual politics of the West", 16 January).

We left Kabul not because the accommodation imposed on us by the authorities was not comfortable enough, as Popham suggests.

The Taliban authorities had imposed such severe restrictions on medical work that it had become impossible to help the most vulnerable people, namely women and children. The authorities had previously banned women from general hospitals, and outlawed the training and employment of female medical staff, the only health workers allowed to treat women - this in a country with one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world.

Medical ethics demand that all patients be treated equally regardless of their gender. We will return to the Afghan capital when the authorities allow us to resume our work in a principled way.

However, we do not agree with the blanket funding bans currently imposed by the British government and the European Union on Afghanistan. The situation in the Afghan provinces is very different from Kabul and aid agencies are able to provide assistance in a fair and principled way in many areas. Such life-saving work should be continued and supported.

ANNE-MARIE HUBY

Executive Director

Medecins Sans Frontieres (UK)

London EC1

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