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Donors Agree To Transfer $280 Million To Two UN Programs To Aid Afghanistan

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Afghans sit besides sacks of food grains distributed as aid by the World Food Program in Kandahar.

The World Bank on December 10 said donors have approved the transfer of $280 million from a frozen trust fund to two aid agencies to help Afghanistan respond to its humanitarian crisis.

The funds will be transferred by the end of the year from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) to two UN programs, UNICEF and the World Food Program (WFP), the World Bank said.

"This decision is the first step to repurpose funds in the ARTF portfolio to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan at this critical time," the World Bank said in a statement.

The WFP will receive $180 million to scale up food security and nutrition operations, while UNICEF will receive $100 million to provide essential health services.

Money from the ARTF “will enable UNICEF to provide 12.5 million people with basic and essential health services and vaccinate 1 million people, while WFP will be able to provide 2.7 million people with food assistance and nearly 840,000 mothers and children with nutrition assistance," the World Bank statement added.

The World Bank said it would continue to work with ARTF donors to unlock additional funds to support the Afghan people.

The money will be used to boost food security and health programs in Afghanistan as it faces a severe economic and humanitarian crisis going into the winter months.

The United Nations has warned that nearly 23 million people -- about 55 percent of the population -- are facing extreme levels of hunger.

The United States and other donors cut off financial aid in August after the Taliban overran the country as the Western-backed government collapsed and the U.S. military and other international forces withdrew.

In the aftermath the U.S. froze about $9.5 billion of the country's reserves, and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund halted Afghanistan's access to funding.

Any of the 31 ARTF donors could have blocked the transfer by lodging an objection, but they all approved it.

The United States, the largest ARTF donor, confirmed ahead of the decision that Washington would not object, according to Reuters.

The United States on December 10 also formalized guidance allowing personal remittances to flow to Afghanistan. The move provides protection to senders and financial institutions from U.S. sanctions.

The license is being implemented in an effort to ensure people can continue to send support to their families in Afghanistan, a Treasury spokesperson told Reuters. Remittances from family and friends abroad have become critical lifelines for numerous Afghans struggling to buy food and other necessities.

The Treasury Department issued a general license authorizing transactions involving the U.S.-blacklisted Taliban or Haqqani network that are necessary to complete the transfer of noncommercial, personal remittances to Afghanistan, including through Afghan depository institutions.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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