Cash-strapped and reportedly ill-prepared to handle donor money, Afghanistan is getting $100 million in new grant from the World Bank to fix its public health system.
The Afghan government and the institution — through the International Development Association — signed on Monday the grant, expected to assist the Ministry of Health in improving basic health and essential hospital services in the war-torn country.
“While we have had significant improvements in access and quality of health care in Afghanistan over the last decade, more needs to be done,” Afghanistan finance minister Omar Zakhailway said in a statement from the World Bank.
The grant will fund rural and urban areas in 22 provinces. By 2018, Afghanistan should have a better health system, with four of every ten births attended by skilled personnel, six of every ten children vaccinated, and four of every ten pregnant mothers having received pre-birth treatment.
But the fresh assistance came at a time when the country is reportedly facing a severe cash crunch and amid growing criticism over the government’s incapacity to sustain donor-funded projects.
The Afghan government is supposed to cover less than half its bill this year.
The International Monetary Fund recently conducted an assessment of the state of Afghan finances and concluded that the country could potentially head off to a severe cash crunch this year due to alleged widespread tax evasion, plunder of customs revenues and a weakening economy.
A shortfall like this spells disaster, especially when donors think Afghanistan is ill-prepared to sustain projects, and the country will find it increasing difficult to pay all operating expenses.
For instance, the U.S. Agency for International Development built two hospitals bigger than originally planned, and the U.S. special inspector general for the country’s reconstruction admitted in a report that the operating costs will be too high.
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