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WB Backs Transfer of $280m Afghan Fund to Aid Agencies

Big questions remain, including how to get funds into Afghanistan without exposing any financial institutions involved to US sanctions

Taliban forces stand guard in front of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Photo: Reuters


The World Bank‘s board has backed transferring $280 million from a frozen trust fund to two aid agencies to help Afghanistan cope with a brewing humanitarian crisis, two sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

But the 31 donors to the World Bank-administered Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) must approve the transfer before the funds can flow to the UN World Food Programme and UNICEF, the sources said.

The donors were expected to meet on Friday, the sources said.  The World Bank board met informally on Tuesday to discuss transferring up to $500 million of the $1.5 billion in the ARTF to humanitarian aid agencies.

Afghanistan’s 39 million people face a cratering economy, a winter of food shortages and growing poverty three months after the Taliban seized power as the last US troops withdrew following 20 years of war.

Afghan experts have said the aid would help, but big questions remain, including how to get funds into Afghanistan without exposing any financial institutions involved to US sanctions.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said it would provide critical life-saving assistance to farmers and herders, while urging far greater and immediate support for agricultural production.


Acute Food Insecurity

The FAO said at least 18.8 million people are facing acute food insecurity in Afghanistan, meaning they are unable to feed themselves on a daily basis – and that number is projected to rise to 22.8 million people by the end of this month.

The agency said it would support farmers and herders with seeds, fertiliser, cash and livelihood support to keep agricultural production going and to avoid widespread livelihood collapse in several parts of the country.

“We need to help Afghanistan avoid a hunger trap. Millions of Afghans are living on the edge of catastrophe – which will occur if their animals die or fields go unplanted,” FAO director-general Qu Dongyu said.

“Urgent investment in agriculture and livestock production is needed now, and it helps donors to save money down the road by putting the country back on track to food security.”

The UN appealed on Thursday for a record $41 billion to provide life-saving assistance next year to 183 million people worldwide caught up in conflict and poverty, led by a tripling of its programme in Afghanistan.


  • Reuters, with George Russell





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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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