Their announcement prompted warnings from a senior UN official and NGOs in Afghanistan that humanitarian aid would be hit hard.
“We cannot effectively reach children, women and men in dire need in Afghanistan without our women workers,” Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE said in a joint statement.
“As we process this announcement, we are suspending our programs so that men and women alike can continue to call for our life-saving help in Afghanistan.”
The order issued by the Economy Ministry on Saturday provoked swift international condemnation.
The ban is the latest blow to women’s rights.
Less than a week ago, Islamists also banned women from attending universities, sparking global outrage and protests in several Afghan cities.
The ministry threatened to suspend the operating licenses of aid organizations that did not stop working for women.
He said he had received “serious complaints” that women working in non-governmental organizations did not follow the proper Islamic dress code, a charge authorities have also used to justify banning university tuition.
But Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN’s special representative for Afghanistan, told AFP that the ban would prevent aid from reaching millions of people and would also have a “devastating” impact on the country’s remaining economy.
“It will be very difficult to continue and provide humanitarian aid in an independent and fair way, because the participation of women is very important,” said Alakbarov.
“We will discuss this issue with the authorities… We will insist on lifting the ban.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also called for a “clear international reaction” on Sunday.
– “Devastating economic impact” –
A meeting of humanitarian officials on Sunday did not decide whether all NGOs would suspend operations, according to Alakbarov, who added that further discussions would take place.
He acknowledged that the ban would affect UN operations, which distribute aid through a wide network of NGOs.
“There is a direct impact on our ability to deliver the program and our ability to provide support such as food and non-food items,” he said.
The ban will have a “very devastating” effect on Afghanistan’s economy, which has already been reeling since the withdrawal of foreign forces in August last year.
“All the aid that is being given to Afghanistan at this time is very critical, both for food security and for people’s job security,” he said.
Afghanistan’s economic crisis has worsened since the Taliban took power, prompting Washington to freeze billions of dollars in assets and cut aid from foreign donors.
Dozens of organizations work in remote areas of Afghanistan and many women workers have warned that the ban will hamper their activities.
“Some NGOs have up to 2,000 women workers, and in most cases they are the sole protectors of their families,” said Alakbarov.