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2.8. Humanitarian workers and healthcare professionals



Please note that this country guidance document has been replaced by a more recent one. The latest versions of country guidance documents are available at

Last updated: December 2020

This profile refers to healthcare workers and those working for national and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

COI summary

The Taliban increasingly try to present themselves as a government overseeing the delivery of services, and accordingly interacts with aid organisations. However, incidents of targeting healthcare workers are reported, including killings, threats, intimidation, harassment, and abduction of healthcare personnel. Clinics often bargain a deal with the insurgents in order to be able to operate in a certain area. It is reported that the situation for healthcare workers differs from area to area, depending to the degree of control versus contestation by insurgent groups. Disruption of activities, kidnappings, confiscation of ambulances, looting and forced closure of clinics have also been reported [COI query on humanitarian workers and healthcare professionals; Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 2.6.2].

In some cases, NGO workers were targeted by insurgents as a result of their activities being perceived as non-neutral or in violation of cultural or religious norms; for example, promoting women’s rights. Other examples include targeting of people active in polio vaccination campaigns (sometimes considered as spies) or in de-mining programs (considered as an activity contrary to the military interests of the Taliban). It is also reported that healthcare workers are threatened to provide better services for certain communities, more specifically with regard to COVID-19 measures [COI query on humanitarian workers and healthcare professionals].

In addition, incidents have been reported of humanitarian workers, including healthcare professionals, who were accused by State actors or PGMs of maintaining contacts with insurgents and were therefore targeted [Conflict targeting, 1.2.6, 2.4].

Incidents with Taliban or (pro-)State actors often occurred in cases where hospitals and aid workers were accused of having treated (or refusing to treat) wounded fighters or were accused of spying or covert support of the other side in the conflict [Conflict targeting, 1.2.6, 2.4].

ISKP considers humanitarian workers as legitimate targets because of links with foreign organisations or donors [COI query on humanitarian workers and healthcare professionals].

Risk analysis

The acts to which individuals under this profile could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. abduction, killing).

Not all individuals under this profile would face the level of risk required to establish well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: gender (i.e. women), nature of activities (national/international NGO with activities related to polio vaccination, demining, promoting women’s rights, etc.), link with government or foreign donors, origin from contested areas, level of (perceived) cooperation with armed groups, speaking out against a party in the conflict, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile is for reasons of (imputed) political opinion.