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World Bank unlikely to resume Afghan aid, says chief

By Salaam Times and AFP

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Afghans wait in line during a World Food Programme food distribution in Kabul on November 6. [Hector Retamal/AFP]

WASHINGTON -- World Bank President David Malpass Monday (November 8) indicated that the institution is unlikely to resume direct aid to Afghanistan, after suspending financing at the end of August.

"I would not envision us operating inside given the full breakdown" of the economy, he said in a conversation at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

"One of the challenges is the payment system," he said, noting that "there's not the ability to have money actually flow, given what the current government is doing."

The World Bank paused aid to Afghanistan on August 24 amid concerns about the security situation and women's rights following the Taliban's takeover of the country, saying it was "closely monitoring and assessing the situation".

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Burqa-clad women wait in line with their children during a World Food Program food distribution on the outskirts of Kabul on November 6. [Hector Retamal/AFP]

The World Bank has more than two dozen development projects ongoing in Afghanistan and has provided $5.3 billion since 2002, mostly in grants, according to the bank's website.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also suspended aid to the country.

Malpass said he had met with the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as United Nations (UN) agencies that are still working in the country.

The United States allowed some exemptions to its sanctions on Afghanistan to allow humanitarian aid to enter.

Almost 23 million people, or 55% of the Afghan population, are estimated to be in crisis or experiencing emergency levels of food insecurity between now and March of next year, the UN said in a statement last Friday.

Even before the Taliban's takeover, the humanitarian situation in the country was one of the worst in the world, it said.

"By the mid-year mark, nearly half of the population, some 18.4 million people, was already in need of humanitarian and protection assistance," said the statement.

Aid pledges

The US government October 28 announced almost $144 million in assistance to those affected by the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

"This assistance brings the total US humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and for Afghan refugees in the region to nearly $474 million in 2021, the largest amount of assistance from any nation," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a press statement.

The funding is provided directly to independent humanitarian organisations including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international and non-governmental organisations that undergo extensive vetting and monitoring, the statement said.

The assistance "will enable our partners to provide lifesaving protection, food security support, essential health care, winterisation assistance, logistics, and emergency food aid, in response to the growing humanitarian needs exacerbated by healthcare shortages, COVID-19, drought, malnutrition and the impending winter", Blinken said.

The amount dwarfs the commitments made by two Afghan neighbours, China and Iran, which have airlifted several small consignments of food commodities, medicines, medical supplies and winter clothing in recent weeks.

China pledged $31 million in immediate aid to the interim Taliban government.

Later, China announced it had provided only $1 million in humanitarian aid and pledged $5 million in food and medical assistance to Afghanistan, according to Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in late October.

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