International donors agreed to release $280 million in aid to Afghanistan, the World Bank said Friday, after repeated warnings that more than half the population face “acute” food shortages this winter.
The fund from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) will go “to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan at this critical time,” the World Bank said in a statement.
The funds will go to UNICEF and the World Food Programme, which “have presence and logistics capacity on the ground in Afghanistan and will use these funds to cover financing gaps in their existing programs to deliver health and nutrition services directly to the Afghan people.”
The bank’s management earlier this month offered the proposal to re-direct the funds intended for rebuilding efforts.
The United Nations has repeatedly warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Around 22 million Afghans, or more than half the country, will face an “acute” food shortage in the winter months, forcing millions to choose between emigration and starvation.
That is due to the combined effects of drought caused by global warming, and an economic crisis aggravated by the international community’s decision to freeze funding to the aid-dependent nation after the Taliban takeover in August — a decision the UN described in a recent report as an “unprecedented fiscal shock”.
Washington froze about $10 billion of the country’s reserves and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund halted Afghanistan’s access to funding.
Many people in the capital Kabul have resorted to selling household goods in order to feed themselves and buy coal to heat their homes in the winter.
UNICEF will receive $100 million to provide essential health services, and WFP will receive $180 million, the statement said.
Bus bomb kills two in Kabul
Two people were killed and four wounded in separate bomb explosions Friday in Kabul, the Taliban government said, as the Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility.
“Two civilians have been killed and three others were wounded” when a bomb exploded on a minibus in the Dasht-e-Barchi district of the Afghan capital, the Taliban’s interior ministry spokesman Sayed Khosti told reporters.
“In another explosion in the same area, one woman was wounded,” he added, specifying that the second blast was also a bomb.
Dasht-e-Barchi is largely populated by the mostly Shiite Hazara community, who for years have been the target of violence by the jihadist Islamic State-Khorasan group.
The IS-K late Friday claimed responsibility for what it said were three explosions targeting buses carrying Shiites.
The bombings ended up “destroying the buses and killing and wounding dozens of them,” according to the group’s message translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, a platform that monitors jihadist activity.
Broken glass and damaged structures were seen on and near the street where one of the explosions occurred.
In November, a similar bomb attack on a minibus in Dasht-e-Barchi killed two people and wounded five others, in an attack that also was claimed by IS-K.
The group — an offshoot of the Islamic State that established a so-called caliphate across swathes of Iraq and Syria from 2014 until 2017 — claimed responsibility for an October 15 suicide bomb attack on a Shiite mosque in Kandahar that killed at least 60 people and injured scores more.
That attack came a week after another deadly mosque blast claimed by the group in northern Kunduz province killed over 60 people.
The Taliban has vowed to crush this rival Sunni extremist group, launching crackdowns against hideouts used by the jihadists, especially in the country’s south and east.
Friday’s bus bombings included the first fatal attack reported by the Taliban for several weeks.
But Kabul has been hit by repeated blasts lately that the Taliban say have been non-fatal.
The Taliban came back to power after a two-decade absence on August 15, when the previous government’s resistance melted amid the final stages of a US military withdrawal from the country.
The Taliban’s first stint in power lasted from 1996 to 2001, before a US invasion, late that year toppled the Islamists.
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