A SCOTS aid worker is remaining in Afghanistan to help with the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the stricken country.

Sam Mort, from Kingussie, is one of the few Westerners left but wants to continue her work with Unicef despite her compound being shaken by recent explosions.

Speaking to the Sunday National after bombs at Kabul airport claimed the lives of at least 180 people, she said: “It was horrific. We are about eight to 10 kilometres away from the airport but then there were other explosions around us.

“There have been no bombs today but we don’t know what is coming next.”

However she said the UN compound where the Unicef office is located is “well guarded”.

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“That’s what I keep telling my mum,” said Mort. “She is worried but the village has come together tightly around her and is giving her so much support which is lovely.”

Despite the chaos and insecurity caused by the West’s withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Mort and members of the team left the compound last week to visit a hospital and camp for displaced people.

“We wanted to get a sense of whether people were out and if mothers were taking babies for vaccinations as well as an insight into the nutrition crisis here,” she said. “The malnutrition ward was full but in a sense that is quite a good sign because it shows mothers are taking babies for treatment – but my god they were critically ill. It was really devastating.”

Mort said she spoke to the female secretary for the hospital director who told her there were around 170 women doctors, health workers, cleaners and administration staff who were still going to work despite the dangers.

“They are more anxious because they feel more eyes are on them but there was a great deal of sisterhood and camaraderie,” said Mort. She added that at the moment the aid workers were in a “wait and see mode”.

“Unicef has been in Afghanistan for over 65 years and throughout times of conflict and insecurity we have worked with either the government or de facto authorities and that is standard practice for Unicef all over the world. Whoever we need to work with to reach children in need is what we do and at the moment that is the Taliban.”

However she stressed that the Taliban is not a homogenous group.

“There are different mind sets within it and what we are about to see is which one emerges as the decision-maker and then one of the big challenges that decision maker will have is bringing everyone else together,” said Mort.

She pointed out that Unicef was in countries by invitation of their government or de facto authority and would be staying in Afghanistan as long as their safety and security could be assured by whoever was in charge.

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“Three weeks ago our safety and security was assured by the government and now given that the de facto authority is the Taliban, then that is who is going to have to guarantee our safety,” she said. “It will remain to be seen what that looks like and how they do it.”

Mort admitted that Islamic terrorist groupings made the safety of the 300 international and national Unicef workers more precarious but said the charity’s senior leadership was “examining and evaluating that every hour, every day”.

“As long as we can do our work safely and as long as our staff are secure when we go out to deliver programmes we will be here, but the moment there is a question mark over safety and security that will have to re-evaluated.”

The speed of the Taliban takeover had taken everyone by surprise including the NGOs in the country, said Mort, but when US president Joe Biden had announced the withdrawal of American troops, Unicef had prepared by positioning supplies all over the country.

“We foresaw a certain amount of humanitarian crisis and population movement so the supplies have come into their own,” she said.

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“However we need the border open, we need the airport open and we need supplies coming in because basically half the country is in need of humanitarian assistance right now and 10 million are children.

“The international community needs to continue to support women and children because they are the least responsible for this crisis and they are paying the highest price.”

She said that was underlined for her at the hospital when the babies were too weak to even grasp her finger. “For me was very, very stark and that is why I am staying,” said Mort.