Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The International Money Fund (IMF) board has approved $220 million in emergency aid for Afghanistan to help the country deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. “The pandemic is inflicting heavy damage on Afghanistan’s economy, which is expected to contract sharply in 2020, imperilling the livelihood of a significant segment of the population,” the IMF said in a statement.
The funds from the Washington-based crisis lender will “help meet the urgent” financing needs as the authorities boost critical health spending and roll out social assistance to households hit hard by the crisis. War-ravaged Afghanistan will see its economy contract this year “leading to a rise in unemployment and poverty.”
The loan comes from the IMF’s Rapid Credit Facility, which has been ramped up and doubled in size to get aid quickly to the world’s poorest nations, which are most vulnerable to the economic effects of shutdowns to contain the outbreak. A country can receive up to two loans from the facility in a 12-month period, pay zero interest and take 10 years to repay, with the first payment not due for five-and-a-half years.
IMF Managing Director Kristina Georgieva said the fund has received over 100 requests for aid from its members, and developing countries will need about $2.5 trillion to deal with the impacts of the pandemic.
The Taliban have issued a statement claiming that 46 of its fighters have contracted the coronavirus while imprisoned by the Afghan government and vowing to seek revenge if any of them died.
The Taliban statement also threatened to hold the United States responsible for not moving quickly enough to free all Taliban operatives from Afghan jails.
The Taliban claims it is fully cooperating with the World Health Organization and medical teams sent by the government in Kabul while using the pandemic to tighten its control over villages and constantly criticizing the government for an inadequate pandemic response.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) says 232 new cases of the coronavirus have been registered in the country during the past 24 hours.
The deputy of MoPH, Wahid Majroh in a press conference on Thursday said that 232 new cases of the coronavirus have been registered in laboratories of the Ministry during the past 24 hours.
According to Majroh, the new cases include 45 cases in Kandahar, 34 in Herat, 20 in Kabul, 12 in Ghazni, 10 in Paktia, Logar, 9 in each provinces of Panjshir, Samangan and 8 cases in Takhar province.
He went on to say seven cases reported in Kunduz, 5 cases in Nangarhar, Baghlan, 4 cases in Wardak, Badghis, 3 in Laghman, 2 in Paktika, Parwan and one in each provinces of Sar-e Pul and Faryab province.
Majroh noted that two patients were died in Herat and Kabul during the past 24 hours which the death toll reaches 64 in the country.
He added that 4 patients have also recovered and the number of people recovered from the coronavirus reaches 260 in the country.
At least 22 new cases of the coronavirus have been registered in the provinces of Paktia, Nangarhar and Laghman during the past 24 hours.
The spokesman of Nangarhar governor, Ataullah Khogyani said 12 positive cases were recorded in the province’s laboratory during the past 24 hours.
According to Khogyani, the new cases include 9 in Nangarhar and three in Laghman.
He added that the the number of people infected with the in Nangarhar reaches 55 and 36 in Laghman.
In the meantime, the Paktia public health department said that 10 New cases reported in the province.
The number of people infected with the coronavirus in Paktia now reaches 94 patients.
The Afghan health authorities have reported that 75 new cases of the coronavirus have been registered during the past 48 hours in Balkh and Herat provinces.
The spokesman of Herat Public Health Department, Muhammad Rafiq Sherzai said that at least 34 new cases of the coronavirus were registered in the province during the past 48 hours.
Sherzai added that the new cases include 22 men and 12 women and the total number of cases reaches 475 with 12 deaths and 110 recovered.
In the meantime, the Balkh health authorities said that 41 new cases of the coronavirus have been registered including 30 men and 11 women in the province.
Chairman of Iran-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce Hossein Salimi pointed to the growing trend of Iran’s export of products to Afghanistan and said, “it is predicted that Iran will witness $300 million worth of goods export’s hike to Afghanistan in the current year [started March 21, 2020] as compared to a year earlier.”
He stated, “Iran-Afghanistan Border is the only border that goods are transited at this border without any problem in the current situation while many of other borders like in Turkey and Iraq are still closed due to the outbreak of coronavirus, COVID-19.”
Iran’s export trend of products to Afghanistan is done slowly, because, truck drivers should first pass the quarantine terms and conditions and then, should be monitored in hygienic terms, he said, adding, “however, Iran’s export of products to Afghanistan has a growing trend in the current year [started March 21, 2020] as compared to the previous year.”
Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) on Wednesday blamed the Afghan government for trying to monopolize foreign funds it receives from the international community to fight COVID-19.
The IWA said that such a move will lead to further expansion of mistrust between the government and the donors.
“Monopolization in the spending of the aid by the international community in the fight against the coronavirus creates severe vulnerabilities and it removes the trust,” said Sayed Ekram Afzali, the head of the IWA.
Meanwhile, a number of lawmakers in the parliament have said that the existence of corruption in the government institutions is a very big factor in whether or not the international community will channel funds for Afghanistan through the government.
“All over the world the aid is spent through institutions such as WHO and USAID, these institutions never provide direct assistance to a government,” said Mir Haidar Afzali, a member of parliament.
“The international community wants to work through a system, not through an individual, but the Arg (Presidential Palace), wants to work individually; because of this, the international community shows unwillingness,” said Gul Rahman Hamdard, a member of parliament.
The Afghan government says that a lot of aid has been provided to Afghanistan to fight COVID-19, and that the government is trying to allocate the assistance in an effective and systematic way.