Geneva, Switzerland - The European Union signed a financing agreement worth millions of euros with Afghanistan during a key summit focused on development and the war-torn country's beleaguered economy.
The aid agreement made on Tuesday at the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan is worth 474 million euros ($535m) to support state building and public sector reforms, healthcare, law enforcement, and elections - as well as to address migration and displacement challenges in Afghanistan.
"The EU stands side by side with Afghanistan and its people to build a stronger future for the country," Neven Mimica, commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, said at the summit.
"Through joint efforts we intend to reduce aid-dependency and invest in democratic governance for the benefit all citizens of the country," Mimica said.
The two-day summit in Geneva is billed as a platform for the Afghan government to renew its commitment to reform and discuss aid contributions in its bid to achieve stability and security.
The United Nations, which is co-hosting the summit at the city's Palais des Nations with the Afghan government, said the conference "will also be crucial in measuring results against the $15.2bn committed by the international community for Afghanistan in 2016."
Within the package, 311 million euros (roughly $351m) is allocated to support the Afghan government in pursuing its reform agenda, 80 million euros (roughly $90m) to improve the health and nutrition of the population, and 15.5 million euros (roughly $16m) to support the presidential and provincial council elections in 2019.
The EU and the Afghan government also signed a new agreement worth 37 million euros (roughly $42m) to "reinforce EU assistance to Afghanistan in addressing migration and forced displacement challenges", which brings the total contribution to almost 230 million euros (roughly $260m).
Earlier on Tuesday, UNICEF's chief of communication in Afghanistan, Alison Parker, warned the situation for children is "dire", with severe acute malnutrition among children being "among the highest globally with about half a million children affected".
"The situation is exacerbated by what has been described as the worst drought in decades with some two million people affected, over half of whom are children," Parker said at the summit in Geneva, adding some "5,000 children have been killed or maimed within the first three quarters of 2018, equal to all of 2017".
The conference comes at a time when the US administration is holding direct talks with the Taliban, Afghanistan's largest armed group which was toppled following a US-led invasion in 2001.
The Taliban wants to drive international forces out of the country and establish a legal system based on a strict interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence, a conflict which has claimed thousands of lives in Afghanistan.
According to the latest figures released in July by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 1,692 civilians were killed during the first six months of 2018 - the most recorded in the period over the last decade since the agency began documentation.
There are now about 14,000 US soldiers in the country as part of the Resolute Support. The Taliban has previously said the presence of foreign troops was the biggest obstacle to peace in Afghanistan.