NEWS: Afganistan
World Bank to offer $1 billion to Afghanistan to fund urgent needs.

The World Bank’s board of direc­tors has approved a plan to use more than $1 bil­lion from a frozen Afghan trust fund to finance urgent­ly need­ed edu­ca­tion, agri­cul­ture, health and fam­i­ly pro­grams, the bank announced.

The plan, which will bypass sanc­tioned Tal­iban author­i­ties by dis­burs­ing the mon­ey through U.N. agen­cies and inter­na­tion­al aid groups, will give a major boost to efforts to alle­vi­ate the coun­try’s wors­en­ing human­i­tar­i­an and eco­nom­ic crises, the bank said Tuesday.

The approach “aims to sup­port the deliv­ery of essen­tial basic ser­vices, pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble Afghans, help pre­serve human cap­i­tal and key eco­nom­ic and social ser­vices, and reduce the need for human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance in the future,” the bank said in a statement.

The Afghanistan Recon­struc­tion Trust Fund (ARTF) was frozen in August when the Tal­iban over­ran Kab­ul as the last U.S.-led inter­na­tion­al troops left after 20 years of war.

For­eign gov­ern­ments end­ed finan­cial aid rep­re­sent­ing more than 70 per­cent of gov­ern­ment spend­ing, while the U.S. took the lead in freez­ing some $9 bil­lion in funds from the Afghan cen­tral bank.

The bud­get cuts have accel­er­at­ed an eco­nom­ic col­lapse, exac­er­bat­ing a cash short­age and deep­en­ing a human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis that the Unit­ed Nations says has pushed more than half of Afghanistan’s pop­u­la­tion of 39 mil­lion to the brink of starvation.

The World Bank state­ment said that ini­tial­ly, ARTF donors will decide on four projects worth about $600 mil­lion that will address “urgent needs in the edu­ca­tion, health and agri­cul­ture sec­tors, as well as com­mu­ni­ty livelihoods.”

There will be “a par­tic­u­lar empha­sis on the par­tic­i­pa­tion and sup­port of girls and women,” the state­ment continued.

The Tal­iban has reversed gains in wom­en’s rights over the past two decades, includ­ing pre­vent­ing them from work­ing and restrict­ing their trav­el unless accom­pa­nied by a close male relative.

Most girls have not been allowed to attend school beyond the sev­enth grade since the Tal­iban took con­trol. The group says all girls will be allowed to return to school lat­er this month.

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