Afghanistan Acute Food Insecurity Outlook (Oct 2023 to Jan 2024), FEWS NET.

ADB Approves $400 Million Grant for Afghanistan Amid Funding Shortage

After multiple outcries by the United Nations that the failure to mobilize resources put millions on the brink of starvation in Afghanistan, the Asian Development Bank announced a $400 million grant.

The new funding scheme, according to a statement ADB released on Wednesday, will support food security and health services. The bank, which suspended its Afghanistan operation in August 2021, said the amount will be disbursed through the UN agencies present on the ground.

It is hard to say, however, whether the UN agencies that suffer from low implementation capacity and have been for their exorbitant operational and overhead costs taking away resources from the needy can effectively handle the money.

The UN in April had announced its 2023 aid plan for Afghanistan, calling for $4.6 billion. However, it had to amend it to $3.2 billion in June, justifying it on “a changing operating context” that rose from the Taliban’s ban on female employment in aid distribution.

In addition to the Taliban’s restrictions, dwindling global interest in Afghanistan, competing priorities elsewhere, and budgetary limitations also contribute to low aid funding. The UN was able to meet its 2022 target of $6.4 billion for Afghanistan at only 50 percent, raising $3.2 billion.

ADB says $100 million of the new funding scheme will go to the World Food Program for food assistance to vulnerable groups, particularly women-led households. According to the ADB statement, WFP’s disbursement scheme will also include training women in entrepreneurial skills in return for food assistance.

It is not yet clear how such programs will interact with the Taliban’s expanding restrictions on women’s education and employment.

The World Food Program had warned in early September that in the next few months, it would only be able to help one in five hungry persons in Afghanistan, saying that funding shortfalls had forced it to drop 10 million Afghans from life-saving assistance. The organization’s website says it requires more than $1 billion only for the second half of 2023 in Afghanistan.

The UN Office of Humanitarian Coordination for Afghanistan (OCHA) says that aid organizations have only been able to raise $801 million thus far, a minuscule 25 percent of the $3.2 billion.

Afghanistan’s current crisis is also caused by climate change such as severe drought and floods. According to the Famine Early Warning System Network, a USAID-led platform, shortage of water and depletion of food stocks will put all of central, northern and northeastern Afghanistan in a food crisis as early as this coming October.

The Asian Development Bank has earmarked $100 million of the new grant to enable the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to support agricultural production, livestock protection, and distribution of climate-resilient seeds to women-led farming households.

The World Food Program says in 25 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, acute malnutrition is above the emergency level. Half of ADB’s $400 million will be channelled to UNICEF to provide health services to 7.5 million people in 10 provinces, leaving the rest to the World Bank.

The recent ADB grant comes amid multiple alarms raised by the UN and other humanitarian organizations that the failure to mobilize enough funding will put millions in Afghanistan on the brink of starvation.

According to international aid agencies, the need for life-saving help in Afghanistan has only increased since 2022. Yet, with no prospects of change in the economic and development outlook, the question remains how long will humanitarian aid be able to keep the country afloat?