Health

Afghanistan to get $220 million IMF loan to mitigate COVID-19 economic impact

Salaam Times and AFP

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A health worker checks the temperature of a Muslim worshipper as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus before Friday prayers on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan in Kabul April 24. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

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.

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As it seems COVID-19 is a pandemic disaster. It makes no difference for it whether it is First World or Third World, it destroys anyone who comes in front of it. As an Afghan citizen, I would also like to express my gratitude for the World Bank, United Nations, the United States of America and other foreign organizations and charity institutions which helped and are helping Afghanistan in this critical situation. I have an opinion or solution in regard to the economic aids, such as the distribution of wheat, flour or bread to the people who are really facing with economic problems. The International Community should sign the contract of wheat or flour directly with the bakeries in every part and district of the city. It should never hand over a kilo of wheat or flour to the government or government officials, or even a district attorney, who are extremely treacherous, thieves and corrupt. The United Nations itself should start the survey of poor people very quickly, and based on the number of family members, it should stamp and sign the number of pieces of bread determined in the cards with the special logo and the ID of the bakery, and coordinate this with the bakeries with which the contract has been signed. What are the benefits of this? 1. Every family can only get their exact number of pieces of bread from the bakery; not more, not less. 2. Some guardians of the families are addicted to drugs or they are drunkard and do not care about their wives and children. As soon as they receive the wheat parcel, they sell it. So this work will prevent them from doing so. 3. On behalf of the donor, a truthful, pious and honest delegation should be designated to monitor the bakeries’ work regularly so that the bakers do not reduce weight and the bread is given to the deserved families according to the contract ............ it continues.

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It will be better if the United Nations give this money to the Afghan government and is spent by the Afghan government. However, if the United Nations give this money to the organizations and they spend the money to fight corona-virus and alleviate poverty, I am sure that more than half of this money will be stolen; therefore, all the money which the International Community helps should be spent by the government through a regular plan.

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4. The bakeries are bound to bake bread only for those who have cards, not for personal sale. That is, the bakers have no right to buy or sell bread from the cardholder. In case of violation, serious action should be taken against them.
5. There should be more bakeries in each part and district of the city so that in the time of need or during rush hour, no one gets hurt by crowding or not observing their turn in the queue.
6. Bread should be distributed only once in a day, not two or three times. For example, if a person deserves eight loaves of bread based on his card, the same eight loaves of bread should be included in the card table once according to the date.
I hope that through this very beautiful website of yours, you will convey this opinion to the United Nations and the donor organizations. I reiterate not to hand over the aids to the government officials, because you will be interrogated and prosecuted before God and His Messenger.

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All the assisted money should be spent to alleviate poverty and be distributed to the poor families, because corona may not kill so many Afghans as poverty and hunger destroy them. Poverty and hunger have reached at their peak in Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan are experiencing their worst economic situation. The Afghan government and the International Community must pay special attention to this area. All the rich people and merchants should give their alms and charity to the poor people during this holy month of Ramadan, in which corona has quarantined people at their homes on the one hand and on the other hand, poverty and unemployment have put the Afghan people in a distressed condition. It is the best reward to obtain. May God grant all those who help the destitute and poor people with great rewards.

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