Bans on Afghan women hurt Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Afghans |

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Bans on Afghan women hurt Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Afghans

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MHPSS Foto bij artikel Afghanistan c Dana Smillie World Bank header

At the end of 2022, the Afghan de facto authorities banned women from attending university and working at non-governmental organisations. Women are vital to humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. After the ban, many international aid organisations had to stop their operations.

During this period, the Dutch Surge Support (DSS) programme deployed Peter Hughes to Afghanistan as an expert on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) with Action Contre la Faim (ACF). His role included supporting the Technical Working Group on MHPSS and providing capacity-building training to organisations and aid workers. Peter shares his personal experience.

"I think the training courses I organised were rewarding and satisfying. I felt that, with this training, we could leave behind some skills that participants could use in their interventions and clinical work on MHPSS. Working in Afghanistan was challenging sometimes; you could hear gunshots at night, and we even experienced a small earthquake. During my stay, we received a lot of support from Afghans and the international community."

No hope for the future

"But the situation changed during the period I stayed there. At the beginning of November, the Afghan de facto authorities banned women from parks. And a week after I visited a university where women were studying in the mornings, the authorities announced that women could no longer attend university and high school. During the training courses I organised, I heard stories from participants of women crying at night. The worst thing for women in Afghanistan now is having a daughter, as there is no future for them. This was all quite chilling. Many people want to leave Afghanistan because they feel there is no hope for the future."

From bad to worse

"2 days after I returned home, the Afghan de facto authorities announced that women could no longer work for international (aid) organisations. This was devastating to hear, as I felt like so much of my work had been undone. Women are vital to health services in Afghanistan. For women, it is not possible to see male health workers. So, half of Afghanistan's population has now lost access to fundamental (mental) health care. I hope the issue of women working will be resolved soon. Also, I hope that, for the things I was involved in, we can continue to develop mental health interventions to improve the well-being of people in Afghanistan."

International organisations

International humanitarian organisations interested in deploying MHPSS experts can send us an email.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs finances DSS MHPSS. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency carries out the programme in close cooperation with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Reference Group on MHPSS in Emergency Settings.

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