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ADB approves $50 million grant for Afghanistan’s COVID vaccine campaign



(Last Updated On: April 20, 2021)

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Tuesday approved a $50 million grant to help the Afghan government procure and deploy safe, high-quality COVID-19 vaccines, and strengthen the country’s capacity to implement its vaccine program.

The ADB said in a statement that the project will support the National Plan for COVID-19 Vaccination in Afghanistan by procuring and transporting six million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for priority segments of the population, as determined by the government.

“As Afghanistan continues to grapple with COVID-19, this project will help ensure that safe and high-quality vaccines are made available to the Afghan people,” said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa.

“Making vaccines available to vulnerable groups and strengthening Afghanistan’s immunization program will help to save lives and is a vital step toward recovery.
This support is part of ADB’s strong commitment to helping Afghanistan overcome the pandemic and achieve a sustainable economic recovery,” Asakawa said.
Under its national plan, the Afghan government aims to vaccinate all eligible people including vulnerable groups, approximately 60 percent of the total population.

ADB’s COVID-19 Vaccine Support Project will provide financing to procure vaccines for at least 2.6 million people, or about 11 percent of the eligible population, including through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX)
Advance Market Commitment facility.

The grant will also strengthen the Ministry of Public Health’s capacity in planning,
communications, coordination, and implementation of the vaccine program at national and provincial levels.

According to the ADB, technical training including specialized gender sessions will ensure that vaccines are administered to women in a culturally sensitive manner and a waste management firm will be engaged to build capacity for proper disposal of medical waste.

ADB estimates that Afghanistan’s GDP contracted by five percent in 2020 as the pandemic forced business closures and disrupted supply chains.

Unemployment is projected to have risen from 23.9 percent in 2019 to 37.9 percent in 2020 adding to the negative pressures of increased costs of food,
housing, and health services.

ADB’s grant complements other development partners’ efforts and contributes to fostering growth in the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation region through addressing pandemic risks and cross-border health threats.

Afghan health officials meanwhile said Tuesday that the number of coronavirus infections has increased in Afghanistan recently.

The Ministry of Public Health said 176 new cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths were reported in the past 24 hours across Afghanistan.
According to the ministry 28 others recovered in the mentioned time.
The ministry warned a lockdown will be imposed in major cities including Kabul if people fail to take the necessary precautions to help curb the spread of the virus.


Private sector calls for implementation of economic projects



(Last Updated On: September 17, 2021)

Afghanistan’s private sector on Thursday called on the new government to implement large, regional projects saying this will create job opportunities, which will in turn reduce poverty and increase government revenue.

“There are many opportunities in the country. TAPI, CASA-1000, Railways, Belt and Road, [these] projects should be implemented; it is very important for the country. It is beneficial for Afghanistan. Taliban (Islamic Emirate) should take it seriously,” said Khan Jan Alokozay, a member of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment.

Some members of the country’s craftsmen association said the Islamic Emirate should start with projects that connect Central Asia to South Asia, in order to push Afghanistan’s economy.

“Our country has the capacity to implement large projects between Central Asia and South Asia. We call on Taliban (Islamic Emirate) to address the projects, said Abdul Jabar Safi, head of the association.

The Islamic Emirate meanwhile has stated that they are focusing on projects and that work on these will start soon.

Economic analysts, on the other hand, have stated that work on such projects should be accelerated.

“Attention should be paid to these projects, in order to move to a stable economy. Afghanistan needs such projects now,” said Abdul Wasi, an economic analyst.

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Central bank seizes over $12 million from former govt officials



(Last Updated On: September 16, 2021)

Afghanistan’s central bank said it had seized nearly $12.4 million in cash and gold from former high-ranking government officials, including former vice president Amrullah Saleh.

In a statement, the central bank said the money and gold had been kept in the houses of officials, although it did not yet know for what purpose.

Saleh’s whereabouts meanwhile are unknown.

In a separate statement, the bank urged Afghans to use the country’s local Afghani currency.

This comes amid growing concerns that the country’s banks and firms are running short of money, especially dollars, which are widely used.

In a sign that the Islamic Emirate are looking to recoup assets belonging to former government officials, the central bank issued a circular to local banks last week asking them to freeze the accounts of politically exposed individuals linked to the previous government.

But on Wednesday, reports emerged that Afghanistan’s banks are running out of dollars, and may have to close their doors to customers unless the government releases funds soon.

Three people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters that the cash squeeze threatens to upend the country’s already battered economy, largely dependent on hundreds of millions of dollars shipped by the United States to the central bank in Kabul that make their way to Afghans through banks.

Although the cash crunch has lasted weeks, the country’s banks have in recent days repeatedly underlined their concerns to the new government and central bank, two of the people said.

Banks have already pared back services and imposed weekly $200 payout limits, with long queues outside branches as people try to get hold of dollars.

But in a statement on its website on Wednesday, the central bank’s acting governor said banks were stable.

“The banks are completely secure,” he said, adding that commercial banks usually kept 10% of their capital as cash and that those in Afghanistan, on average, held 50% as cash.

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Efforts underway to reopen Torkham and Spin Boldak border crossings



(Last Updated On: September 15, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister Mawlavi Amir Khan Mottaqi met with Pakistani Ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Ahmad Khan on Tuesday to discuss challenges at the country’s border crossings.

Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Islamic Emirate’s political office in Doha, said the meeting focused on the people’s challenges at the Torkham and Spin Boldak crossings.

According to Shaheen, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan has assured the Islamic Emirate that the crossings will soon be reopened to Afghans and all challenges will be resolved.

Pakistan closed the Torkham crossing to Afghan travelers, and traffic continued intermittently through Spin Boldak after the Islamic Emirate’s takeover of Afghanistan last month.

Thousands of Afghans are however currently waiting to cross into Pakistan at these crossings.

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