After 20 years of conflict, the Taliban is taking control of Afghanistan once again. Many people in the country are concerned for their safety and livelihood, as the Taliban's strict laws focus on the subjugation of women as well as religious and ethnic minorities and the banning of the arts. There is also a serious concern of a further humanitarian crisis in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The insurgent organization has historically been against vaccines. Taliban commanders are known for blocking access to lifesaving polio vaccines, as well as murdering aid workers over the last two decades. The group took a different approach when it came to the COVID-19 pandemic – it actually assisted domestic and international efforts to control the spread of the virus in the areas of Afghanistan it controlled at the time.
However, that goodwill seems to have come to an end. Afghan News outlet Shamshad News reports that the Taliban has banned the use of COVID-19 vaccines in Paktia, one of the 34 provinces of the country located in Eastern Afghanistan. According to the provincial Public Health Director, Walayat Khan Ahmadzai, the Taliban has told them to stop distributing the vaccines and have since closed the COVID-19 vaccine ward in the regional hospital.
Afghanistan has seen over 150,000 cases of COVID-19, and almost 7,000 deaths.
The military organization has been one of the major factions in the Afghan Civil War, having control of the country between 1996 and 2001 following Soviet withdrawal. They were removed from power in 2001 when the United States and the UK invaded Afghanistan. Over the last two decades, they have continued insurrections throughout the country. On Sunday, August 15, the capital Kabul fell to the Taliban as the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled the country and the government collapsed.