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.