The international community has so far promised over $600 million to Afghanistan to help the country in its struggle against COVID-19.
Of that amount, $100 million was provided by the World Bank, 117 million euros was pledged by the EU, $50 million was pledged by the Asian Development Bank, $35 million was promised by the US, and $220 million in loans were granted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
Other countries such as China, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and the Czech Republic also provided material aid-- in many cases in the form of medical equipment--to the Afghan health system.
Also, according to the Ministry of Finance, the government has allocated Afs29 billion from the national budget to flow into COVID-19 funds.
But government institutions have so far not reported back on where the COVID-19 funds have been spent or invested.
“The Asian Development Bank approved a grant for emergency assistance for supporting the government’s efforts in COVID-19. The grant of $40 million will help in constructing new hospitals and wards for COVID-19 patients. It will also help to supply medical equipment for these hospitals as well as for other medical centers in the country,” Said Narendra Singru, the ADB Country Director for Afghanistan.
“Besides the coronavirus, the World Bank has committed to $40 million which as part of an incentive program for the year 2020. $200 million from that amount will be transferred this week,” said Shamroz Khan Masjidi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance.
“50 million euros have been pledged by the European Union, and technical discussions are underway to see where we can spend the money,” said Wahid Majroh, the deputy Minister of public health.
While the Afghan government insists on spending foreign funds it receives from the international donors through the government’s budget, there are serious concerns among experts about the government’s capacity to invest the funds effectively and transparently in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts say that the government should avoid an approach that might induce donors to not follow through on their financial commitments or to not make new ones.
According to experts, in light of the current circumstances, the Afghan government, like other NGOs, does not have the capacity to ensure the timely and effective management and investment of the funds.
Experts also said that there are serious questions about the government's ability to ensure the transparency of the aid's spending.
“The government has failed to create the capacity to spend the budget,” said Mahdi Rasekh, a member of parliament.
But the Presidential Palace insists that the coronavirus task force was already operating under the chairmanship of First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, which is undertaking efforts for improved management and spending.
On May 2, The Ministry of Finance assured the international community of accountability and transparency in the spending of the foreign assistance aid given to the country to fight the coronavirus, citing the committee under the first vice president tasked with funds-management.
When the committee under Saleh was announced, the Afghan government insisted that the aid should be spent through the government budget instead of through NGOs.