World Bank approves shift to channel IDA funds to Afghanistan humanitarian aid

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 4:57 PM

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The World Bank Group said on Thursday its executive board endorsed a new approach to aiding Afghanistan that will deploy some $300 million from the bank’s International Development Association fund for poor countries through United Nations agencies and other international organizations.

The development lender said the funds would remain outside the control of the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan and would complement Afghanistan Resilience Trust Fund (ARTF) donor financing in supporting critical basic services such as food, water, health, education and jobs.

The shift marks the first time that the World Bank’s own funds would be sent to Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power in August 2021. Since then, the ARTF has channeled $1.5 billion in donor aid through partner organizations to benefit some 25 million Afghans.

The IDA fund disburses grants and highly concessional loans to the world’s poorest countries, and its resources are replenished every few years by donor countries, with the current $93 billion replenishment set to conclude in 2025. World Bank President Ajay Banga has called for the next IDA replenishment round to set a new record as demands for its funding grows.

The World Bank said its new “Approach 3.0” to Afghanistan aims to deliver basic services at scale, including supporting employment opportunities through the microfinancing of income-generating activities, and facilitating private-sector participation in the delivery of aid.

The bank said it was continuing its previous ARTF principles of putting women at the center of projects and ensuring that project activities are implemented by and for women. This puts some of the international aid agencies’ activities at odds with Taliban policies that deny rights to women, such as in education.

A World Bank spokesperson said the $300 million in available funding would run until June 30, 2025, through the remainder of the current fiscal year and all of the next fiscal year.

(Reporting by David Lawder in WashingtonEditing by Chris Reese and Matthew Lewis)