In New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack in the strongest terms, describing it as “despicable”, according to a statement issued by his Spokesperson.
“The perpetrators of this latest crime against civilians in Afghanistan exercising their right to freely practice their religion must be brought to justice,” it said.
The President of the UN General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, has also strongly condemned the attack.
Shahid expressed his profound condolences to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.
The UN Security Council issued a statement underlining the need to hold accountable perpetrators and organizers of “reprehensible acts of terrorism”, as well as those who finance or sponsor them.
The 15-member Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. Council members also underscored that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation.
The blast occurred against the backdrop of the deepening and multifaceted crisis in Afghanistan. The UN continues to advocate for greater international support for the country, where boys and girls “are paying the highest price”, according to Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director at the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.
“We anticipate that the humanitarian needs of children and women will increase over the coming months, amidst the severe drought and consequent water scarcity, an uncertain security environment, continuous displacement, the devastating socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the onset of winter,” he told reporters in New York.
Abdi was in Afghanistan last week, where he saw first-hand how children are bearing the impacts of a tattered economy and collapsing health system.
Medical supplies are running dangerously low, and outbreaks of measles and acute watery diarrhoea are on the rise.
Even before the Taliban takeover in August, at least 10 million Afghan children were in need of humanitarian assistance. He warned that at least one million are at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition if they do not receive treatment immediately.
“I visited the Children’s Hospital in Kabul and was shocked to see how packed it was with malnourished children, some of them babies,” he said.
The UNICEF official met with the de facto authorities where he put girls’ education top of the agenda. Millions of Afghan girls of secondary school age have yet to return to the classroom.
“I got affirmations of the commitments that the Taliban made in terms of allowing all girls to go to school,” he said. “Girls up to grade six can go to school now.”
There are more than 30 provinces in Afghanistan and Abdi reported that it is only in five, where girls can go to secondary school, “but we are asking that girls everywhere go to school.”
The Taliban authorities are developing a framework on the issue, which is expected in the next two months, he said. The framework will also address concerns by more conservative elements in society around girls’ education, such as keeping girls separate from boys and allowing only women to teach them.
“Now interestingly,?the authorities that I met said that when they put in place the framework that they’re working on, (it) will convince more parents to send their girls to school, so that has to be seen,” he said.
— Fatemeh Abv 🇮🇷 (@fa_abv) October 15, 2021
Since their Aug 15 takeover of Afghanistan as US and NATO forces were in the final stages of their chaotic withdrawal from the country after 20 years, the Taliban have come under increasing international pressure to ensure women’s rights to education and work.
Abdi said that in every meeting he pressed the Taliban to let girls resume their learning, calling it critical for the girls themselves and for the country as a whole.
UNICEF has been in Afghanistan for more than 60 years, i was pointed out.
The agency said it fears that education gains made over the last two decades could be rolled back.
Since 2001, school enrollment jumped from one million to 10 million through to the middle of this year, including four million girls, while the number of schools also tripled, from 6,000 to 18,000 in the last decade. Yet, 4.2 million Afghan children are out of school, 2.6 million girls of them girls.
UNICEF is also now accessing more areas of the country that were previously under Taliban control. Some women staff are back at work, and Abdi expects they will all return. The UN agency said it is scaling up its programmes, but needs support, and he urged the de facto authorities, the international community, humanitarian organizations and other stakeholders, to step up more.
– Islamic State threat –
The Islamic State’s Afghanistan-Pakistan chapter has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in those countries in recent years.
It has massacred civilians in both countries, at mosques, shrines, public squares and even hospitals. The group has especially targeted Muslims from sects it considers heretical, including Shias. But while IS and the Taliban are both hardline Sunni Islamist militants, they are rivals and oppose each other.
The Taliban have promised a softer brand of rule from their first stint, which ended in 2001 when the United States invaded because they gave sanctuary to Al-Qaeda.
But many Afghans fear a repeat of the Taliban’s brutal interpretation of Sharia law, as well as violent retribution for working with foreign militaries, Western missions or the previous US-backed government.
There are particular concerns for women, who were largely banned from education and employment and could only leave the house with a male chaperone during the group’s 1996-2001 rule.
“They have not only saved our lives, but they have also saved our dreams,” one member of a girls robotics team said of the Mexican government after fleeing Afghanistan and landing in Mexico City.
“Under this (Taliban) regime, we women will face difficulties… that is why we are grateful to be here,” she told reporters.
The crowds at the airport have led to chaos throughout the airlift operations, with thousands of US troops trying to maintain a secure perimeter for evacuation flights. Some of the Afghans massed outside the airport have foreign passports, visas or eligibility to travel, but most do not.
At least eight people have died in the chaos. Despite the harrowing scenes, the Taliban have ruled out any extension to next Tuesday’s deadline to pull out foreign troops, describing it as “a red line”.
© APP with additional inputs from GVS