WASHINGTON -- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) Wednesday (April 29) approved $220 million (16.7 billion AFN) in emergency aid for Afghanistan to help cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The pandemic is inflicting heavy damage on Afghanistan's economy, which is expected to contract sharply in 2020, imperiling the livelihood of a significant segment of the population," the IMF said in a statement.
The funds from the Washington-based crisis lender will "help meet the urgent" financing needs as Afghan authorities boost critical health spending and roll out social assistance to households hit hard by the crisis.
War-ravaged Afghanistan will see its economy contract this year, "leading to a rise in unemployment and poverty", the IMF said.
Growing COVID-19 death toll
As of Thursday (April 30), the country had 2,171 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 64 deaths.
The loan comes from the IMF's Rapid Credit Facility, which has been ramped up and doubled in size to get aid quickly to the world's poorest nations -- most vulnerable to the economic effects of shutdowns to contain the outbreak.
A country can receive up to two loans from the facility in a 12-month period, pay zero interest and take 10 years to repay, with the first payment not due for five and a half years.
On Wednesday, President Ashraf Ghani once again called on the Taliban to honour the holy month of Ramadan by stopping its campaign of violence.
For their part, the Taliban have dismissed the call for a Ramadan ceasefire in Afghanistan, saying a truce is "not rational" as they ramp up attacks on government forces.