- Funds for education, agriculture, etc.
- The plan is to evade sanctioned Taliban authorities.
- Funds to be disbursed through the WB administered ARTF.
WASHINGTON: World Bank management has approved a plan to use about $1 billion in a frozen Afghanistan trust fund for education, agriculture, health and family programs, according to a banking document and two sources, which would be a major boost to efforts to alleviate the country’s worsening humanitarian and economic crises.
The plan, outlined in the newspaper seen by Reuters on Friday, is to evade sanctioned Taliban authorities by disbursing the money in the World Bank-administered Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) through UN agencies.
It will be discussed by the World Bank’s board of directors on March 1, the sources familiar with the plan told: Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. Donors of the fund would then have to give permission for the release of money.
The move would follow a successful $280 million disbursement from the same trust fund to the World Food Program (WFP) and UN children’s agency UNICEF to support nutrition and health in Afghanistan in recent months.
The World Bank newspaper says the plan is to provide “just over $1 billion in ARTF funds by calendar year 2022.” Recognizing that the situation remains fluid, the plan aims for flexibility by making four payouts totaling $600 million and the rest “priority” for the remainder of the year.
Its aim “is to protect the vulnerable, help preserve human capital and key economic and social institutions, and reduce the need for future humanitarian aid,” the World Bank document said. It called for the fund to be used for food security, health and education programs.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last month called for the release of the remaining $1.2 billion in the fund to help the Afghan people survive the winter, stressing: “Time is of the essence.”
‘Access and equity’
The United Nations warns that nearly 23 million people — about 55% of the impoverished country’s population — are experiencing extreme hunger, and nearly 9 million are at risk of starvation.
Billions of dollars in Afghan central bank reserves, the World Bank-managed trust fund and foreign financial aid were frozen to keep it out of the hands of the Taliban. The group took power in August when foreign troops left after the most recent war in Afghanistan, which lasted 20 years.
Graeme Smith, senior adviser to the think tank International Crisis Group, said the World Bank’s plan would bring in much-needed cash while also evading the Taliban, whose leaders are under US and UN sanctions.
Read more: ‘No other alternative to Taliban in Afghanistan now’
“This will help loosen a lot of the money. It will move us forward,” he said, adding that more efforts were needed to thaw the central bank’s assets.
The World Bank’s plan sets “minimum conditions for entry and equality” to ensure girls are admitted to schools, female teachers can work, women are included on community councils, female-headed households receive food aid and female health workers are allowed to work .
It is asking for about $150 million to be distributed through UNICEF for stipends to more than 200,000 teachers who have not been paid for more than six months. Another $100 million would be allocated to improve community resilience, $150 million to $200 million for food security and $150 million for health programs.
The United States last week announced plans to release half of the $7 billion in frozen Afghan central bank assets at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to help the Afghan people. The rest were held to settle possible terrorism-related lawsuits against the Taliban.