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Donors support transfer of $280m fund to Afghanistan

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KABUL: International donors have agreed to transfer $280m from a frozen trust fund to the World Food Program and UNICEF to help avert famine in Afghanistan, the World Bank said as it seeks to help a country facing famine and economic freefall.

The World Bank-administered Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund will this year give $180m to WFP to scale up food security and nutrition operations and $100m to UNICEF to provide essential health services, the bank said in a statement on Friday.

The money would aim to support food security and health programmes in Afghanistan as it sinks into a severe economic and humanitarian crisis that accelerated in August, when the Taliban overran the country as the Western-backed government collapsed and the last US troops withdrew.

The United States and other donors cut off financial aid on which Afghanistan became dependent during 20 years of war, and more than $9bn of the country’s hard currency assets were frozen.

The United Nations is warning that nearly 23 million people – about 55 percent of the population – are facing extreme levels of hunger, with nearly nine million at risk of famine as winter takes hold in the impoverished, landlocked country.

Using reconstruction trust fund money and channelling it through the WFP and UNICEF, both part of the UN family, appears to be a way to get funding into the country for basic needs in a manner that does not necessarily implicate US sanctions against the Taliban.

“This decision is the first step to repurpose funds in the ARTF portfolio to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan at this critical time,” the bank said, saying the agencies had presence on the ground to deliver services directly to Afghans in line “with their own policies and procedures”.

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