World Bank approves $400m funding injection for Afghanistan

Afghanistan has 4,033 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 115 deaths

epa08410415 A farmer harvests wheat on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 08 May 2020.  EPA/GHULAMULLAH HABIBI

The World Bank approved a $400 million grant on Friday to help Afghanistan deal with the coronavirus while maintaining economic and public finance reforms.

The grant will support efforts to improve business regulation and encourage private investment, improve taxation capacity and expand social inclusion, among others.

It is made up of $160 million from the International Development Association, the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries and $240 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, managed by the World Bank on behalf of 34 donors.

“Today’s board approval is a strong indication that the World Bank is redoubling its efforts to help Afghanistan and its people beyond the current Covid-19 crisis,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan.

“This assistance will help Afghanistan maintain its reform momentum throughout a difficult period and provide vital financial support to the government to manage revenue shortfalls arising from coronavirus impacts.”

It came as the UN appealed for more than $4.7 billion in funding to "protect millions of lives and stem the spread of coronavirus in fragile countries,” including Afghanistan.

"I would like to see some of the wealthiest people in the world who are making money right now step up and be generous," David Beasley, director of the UN's World Food Programme, told a videoconference.

The money is on top of the $2 billion the UN already called for when it launched its global humanitarian response plan on March 25. It has received about half of that money so far.

"The most devastating and destabilising effects" of the novel coronavirus pandemic "will be felt in the world's poorest countries," the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Mark Lowcock, said in a statement.

"Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty. The specter of multiple famines looms," he warned.

As of Saturday, Afghanistan had 4,033 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 115 deaths. But the numbers are likely much higher as a random test of 500 people in Kabul last week returned one-third positive results.

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