By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Norway is encouraging donors to a World Bank-administered fund for Afghanistan to agree to transfer $280 million to the World Food Programme and UNICEF, Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said on Monday.
The World Bank’s board backed transferring $280 million to the U.N. agencies from the $1.5 billion Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which was frozen after the Taliban took over the Afghan government in August, Reuters reported last week.
The 31 donors to the fund must approve the transfer. A World Bank spokesperson said ARTF donors met last Friday and agreed to make a decision in one week.
During a joint interview with U.N. Development Programme chief Achim Steiner in New York, Huitfeldt told Reuters that she hoped donors would sign off on the transfer and that Norway “encouraged” them to do so.
“And we discussed the situation in Afghanistan during the NATO meeting last week, and also encourage NATO countries to continue to avoid a total economic or humanitarian collapse in Afghanistan,” she said.
Afghanistan is struggling with a sharp drop in international development aid after the Taliban seized power, an economy and banking system on the brink of collapse, the COVID-19 pandemic and severe drought.
“If you cannot have enough food, you cannot educate your children, you cannot get health service for your family, you have no reason to live there anymore, you try to move on somewhere else,” Steiner said.
The UNDP has projected that poverty may become nearly universal by mid-2022 – affecting more than 90 percent of Afghanistan’s 39 million people.
“We face this particularly intense period between now and next year, where many Afghans are on the verge of giving up,” Steiner said.
A challenge for the United Nations has been getting enough cash into Afghanistan to help deliver aid to millions of people on the brink of famine and prevent the breakdown of the economy and health and education services.
“The volume of finance that needs to be, in one way or another, mobilized by Afghanistan, is far larger than anything the financial system can cope with right now. So we are faced with an enormous constraint,” Steiner said.
It’s a problem that hasn’t been solved yet, Steiner said.
He said the United Nations was considering flying in U.S. dollars, but warned that could only be a short term solution as it was “not the basis on which the scaling up of finance that is needed will happen.”