UN asks for $2 bn to fight coronavirus in vulnerable countries

United Nations, Mar 25 (efe-epa).- The United Nations on Wednesday asked donors for $2 billion in funding to finance a plan designed to contain and limit the impact of the coronavirus in countries that are especially vulnerable due to their levels of poverty or because they are the sites of crises or conflicts.

“COVID-19 is threatening the whole of humanity, and the whole of humanity must fight back. Global action and solidarity are crucial. Individual country responses are not going to be enough,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in an online press conference upon announcing the initiative together with the heads of various agencies within the international body.

Guterres said at the UN headquarters in New York as he appealed to governments to provide funding and support for the plan, that aiding the most vulnerable around the world is a “moral imperative” and a “necessity for global health security.”

The UN chief said that it is necessary to act “now” to halt the impact of Covid-19, the sometimes deadly pneumonia that the virus often causes, in vulnerable parts of the globe.

Among the countries that the UN intends to assist with the funds collected as part of the initiative are Venezuela and Colombia, as well as countries in the region that have received large numbers of Venezuelan refugees, countries dealing with internal conflicts like Yemen, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, as well as Palestine and many nations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The strategy behind the plan rests on three pillars: containing the advance of the pandemic, preventing a deterioration of the overall situation in the vulnerable areas and protecting refugees and displaced persons, who are considered to be groups that are especially at risk.

Guterres noted that people who have been forced to flee their homes due to warfare or flooding, for instance, are living in temporary camps or informal settlements and have no homes in which they can practice social isolation. They also lack clean water and soap to maintain their personal hygiene and if they get seriously ill they have no access to a healthcare system that can provide them with a hospital bed and/or a ventilator.

The UN chief said that the $2 billion being requested is just “a drop in the ocean” compared with the much larger financial efforts being made by countries with greater resources, pointing to the $2 trillion economic stimulus plan approved by the US Congress in recent hours to protect the US economy.

The UN strategy, which will be implemented by its agencies with the cooperation of non-governmental organizations, aims to distribute laboratory equipment for testing people for the virus and medical supplies to treat ill people, and to set up hand-washing stations in refugee camps.

In addition, the plan includes launching information campaigns so that people will know how to protect themselves and establishing air-bridges in Africa, Asia and Latin America to move workers and humanitarian supplies to the areas that need them most.

The UN plan is slated to last from April to December and the funding is supposed to come from appeals that various UN agencies – including the World Health Organization and the World Food Program – have already made.

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said that Covid-19 has already hit some of the world’s richest countries very hard and it is now beginning to be felt in war zones and poverty-stricken nations where people lack basic protections.

The plan, he said, is being presented as a directed effort to address the immediate humanitarian consequences of the pandemic around the world, noting that the UN will disburse $60 million from its emergency fund to support the plan in addition to the $15 million announced previously, and he called upon governments to contribute as quickly as possible while not neglecting to fulfill their previous humanitarian commitments that support 100 million people worldwide.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the spread of the pandemic is accelerating, adding that the greatest danger posed by the coronavirus is for the people already affected by other crises.

As of Wednesday, there are approximately 439,000 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, with a total approaching 20,000 having died so far, according to an ongoing tally being kept by The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.


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