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WB approves to use frozen fund of $1bln for aid to Afghanistan

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WASHINGTON: The executive board of the World Bank approved a plan to use more than $1 billion from a frozen Afghanistan trust fund to finance urgently needed education, agriculture, health, and family programs, the bank announced.

The funds, to be delivered in the form of grants, aim “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 Washington-based institution said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Bank approved a plan to use more than $1billion from a frozen Afghanistan trust fund to fund urgently needed education, agriculture, health, and family programmes, a source familiar with the decision told Reuters news agency.

The decision, which will bypass sanctioned Taliban authorities, will provide a major boost to efforts to ease the country’s worsening humanitarian and economic crises.

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

Foreign governments ended financial aid constituting more than 70 percent of government expenditures while the United States led in the freezing of some $9 billion in Afghan central bank funds.

The funding cuts accelerated an economic collapse, fuelling a cash crunch and deepening a humanitarian crisis that the United Nations says has pushed more than half of Afghanistan’s population of 39 million to the verge of starvation.

The World Bank statement said that as a first step, ARTF donors will decide on four projects worth about $600 million that will support “urgent needs in education, health and agricultural sectors, as well as community livelihoods.”

There will be a “strong focus on ensuring that girls and women participate and benefit from the support,” the statement continued.

Afghanistan’s new rulers have appealed to the international community to help the country and have pressed for billions of dollars of frozen assets overseas to be released.

The Afghan economy depended on aid before the western-backed government collapsed last year. Taliban is under unilateral sanctions that have made foreign banks reluctant to facilitate aid money transfers.

The United States has sought to allay fears of those providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan of falling foul of sanctions and said it would free up $3.5 billion in frozen Afghan central bank assets on US soil to help Afghans.

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