Frozen $1 billion of Afghanistan funding will be spent on aid, World Bank says

Plan approved to bypass sanctions against Taliban authorities by paying out money through UN agencies and aid groups

More than $1 billion from a frozen Afghanistan trust fund will be used to finance urgently needed education, agriculture, health and family programmes in the country, the World Bank has announced.

The World Bank's executive board on Tuesday approved the plan, which will bypass sanctions against Taliban authorities by paying out the money through UN agencies and international aid groups.

It will provide a major boost to efforts to ease the country's worsening humanitarian and economic crises.

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.

Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund 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 per cent of government expenditure, while the US led in the freezing of some $9bn in Afghan central bank funds.

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

The World Bank said initially 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 bank said.

The Taliban have unravelled gains in rights made by women during the past two decades, including restricting them from working and limiting travel unless accompanied by a close male relative.

Most girls have been barred from going to school beyond seventh grade since the Taliban takeover. The militant group says that all girls will be allowed to return to classrooms later in March.

Updated: March 02, 2022, 7:19 AM