The World Bank’s board of directors on Tuesday approved $210 million in two grants to help cushion impact of COVID-19 on poor households and protect food security, the Bank said in a statement.
The financing from the International Development Association, which gives grants or low-interest loans to the world’s poorest countries, is part of a larger financial package of $380 million to help Afghanistan cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Afghan households, support critical food supply chains, and provide emergency support to farmers.
The package includes $280 million grant to fund the COVID-19 Relief Effort for Afghan Comminities and Households (REACH) project. It is comprised of $155 million from IDA and will be complemented by $125 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund which is managed by the World Bank on behalf of 34 donors.
The project will benefit some 2.9 million households across Afghanistan. The REACH project will complement a parallel relief effort organized under the Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project. Together, both will cover 90 percent of households in the country under the government’s “Dastarkhan-e-Milli”program, benefitting an estimated 4.1 million households with incomes of $2 a day or less.
The package includes also $100 million grant to fund the Emergency Agriculture and Food Supply project, which is comprised of $55 million from IDA and will be complemented by $45 million from the ARTF.
The project aims to improve food security by increasing local food production and strengthening critical commercial food supply chains, especially wheat as the staple crop for over 70 percent of the Afghan population.
The project will also provide short-term employment in rural areas in the development of productive assets such as irrigation schemes. In rural areas, measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have disrupted farming, leaving Afghan farmers unable to sow their crops on time, while in urban areas food prices are rising with shortages of food supply becoming more urgent.
“The living conditions of millions of Afghan families have severely worsened due to the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak,”said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “These grants will help the Government of Afghanistan address the urgent needs of most households and ensure that Afghan farmers can continue to produce food at a time when imports and exports are severely disrupted. This will extend economic opportunities and create jobs for the wider rural population.”