World Bank proposal would shift $600 million from Afghan trust

The World Bank’s management has signed off on a proposal that would repurpose $600 million of the just over $1 billion left in a frozen trust fund to benefit Afghan education, families and communities, a source familiar with the plan told Reuters.

The board of the World Bank is due to discuss the proposal on March 1, with a final decision on disbursement of the funds left up to the donors of Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which is administered by the bank, the source said.

The funds would be disbursed by various United Nations agencies, including UNICEF and the Food and Agriculture Organization, amid escalating concerns about the collapsing Afghan economy, the source told Reuters.

Donors to the trust fund in December approved the transfer of $280 million from the trust to the World Food Program and UNICEF to support nutrition and health in Afghanistan.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the U.N. Security Council last month to free up the remaining $1.2 billion in the fund to help Afghanistan’s people survive the winter.

The fresh funds will help support food security, health and education programs in Afghanistan as it sinks into a severe economic and humanitarian crisis. The crisis accelerated in August when the former government collapsed and the last U.S. and allied troops withdrew.

The United States and other donors cut off the financial aid that had kept Afghanistan running during 20 years of war after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) takeover.

The United Nations is warning that nearly 23 million people – about 55% of the population – are facing extreme levels of hunger, with nearly 9 million at risk of famine as winter takes hold in the impoverished country.

The United States last week announced plans to free up half of the $7 billion in frozen Afghan central bank assets on U.S. soil to help the Afghan people while holding the rest to possibly satisfy terrorism-related lawsuits against the IEA, the White House said on Friday.