Norway urges support for U.N. fund to aid Afghans

OSLO (Reuters) – Norway on Tuesday urged other countries to contribute to a United Nations fund by providing cash directly to Afghans so they can survive the winter, its foreign minister told Reuters.

With the Afghan economy “imploding”, the United Nations set up the fund last month to provide direct help for local households, bypassing the Taliban and drawing on donor funds frozen since it took power in August.

Norway has pledged 200 million Norwegian crowns ($23 million) to the fund, which is managed by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP).

“We encourage other countries to do the same, to pitch in to avoid a pressing humanitarian crisis and a potential famine,” Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said in an interview ahead of a U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday.

Norway was also funneling cash to aid women’s organisations in Afghanistan, she said, and Norway’s humanitarian aid to the country would total 325 million crowns this year.

Norway will take over the U.N. Security Council presidency from January.

“I hope the discussion in the Security Council tomorrow will contribute to give some attention to the situation in Afghanistan … to mobilise more funds,” Huitfeldt said.

“(The fund’s) purpose is to build a bridge between a humanitarian effort and something more long-term, in order for people to support themselves,” she added.

Reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by Giles Elgood

Norway urges support for U.N. fund to aid Afghans