The World Bank’s board of directors has approved moving $280 million from a frozen trust fund to two relief organizations to assist Afghanistan in dealing with a looming humanitarian crisis following the US departure, according to two persons familiar with the situation on Wednesday.
According to the sources, the transfer must be approved by the 31 donors to the World Bank-managed Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) before monies can be sent to the World Food Programme and UNICEF. According to the sources, the contributors were scheduled to meet on Friday.
According to persons familiar with the initiative, the World Bank board met informally on Tuesday to consider moving up to $500 million of the $1.5 billion in the ARTF to humanitarian relief organizations.
Afghanistan’s 39 million people face a cratering economy, a winter of food shortages and growing poverty three months after the Taliban seized power as the last U.S. troops withdrew from 20 years of war.
Afghan experts have said the aid would help, but big questions remain, including how to get funds into Afghanistan without exposing any financial institutions involved to U.S. sanctions.
While the U.S. Treasury has provided “comfort letters” assuring banks that they can process humanitarian transactions, concern about U.S. sanctions continues to prevent passage of even basic supplies, including food and medicine.
Any decision to redirect ARTF money requires the approval of all its donors, of which the United States has been the largest.
The White House and the Treasury had no immediate comment on the World Bank board’s endorsement of transferring the funds to the World Food Programme and UNICEF.
A World Bank spokesperson confirmed the bank’s board had discussed the issue and that the donors were to meet on Friday.
The board “discussed an approach to transfer out funds from the … ARTF to humanitarian aid agencies with presence and logistics on the ground to enable basic humanitarian support directly to the people in the country,” the spokesperson said. “The ARTF Donors’ Steering Committee is scheduled to meet on Dec. 3 to consider transfers out from the fund.”