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Virus-hit Afghanistan Gets $200 Million World Bank Grant

FILE: Laborers work on trenches on a hill to help improve the capital Kabul's water supply, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in June.

The World Bank has approved $200 million in aid to help Afghanistan tackle economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic, as confirmed cases top more than 34,000 in the conflict zone.

The country's war-ravaged economy has been severely impacted due to a months-long lockdown, with thousands of people losing their jobs in the economic fallout.

Afghanistan has also grappled with increased militant violence in recent months that has diverted vital attention and resources away from the fight against the disease.

"The program will provide vital fiscal resources to manage the impacts of the pandemic in the context of rapidly slowing economic growth and declining government revenues," Henry Kerali, the World Bank head for Afghanistan said in a statement on July 9.

Afghanistan has so far declared just over 34,000 cases of COVID-19, with nearly 1,000 deaths.

"In the cities, the cases are steady but we are worried the cases may spread in rural areas," Abdul Qadir, a senior official at the health ministry told AFP on July 10.

Qadir said the World Bank funds will be used to help mitigate the impact on healthcare, social and business sectors.

The virus first spread to Afghanistan as infected migrants returned from neighboring Iran, the region's worst-hit country.