UN Calls for Attention to Poor Countries Facing Covid-19


The medical equipment needed to fight the coronavirus is distributed to other nations in the region by the United Nations from Panama. The secretary general, António Guterres, has offered support for treatment and for economic recovery in the most vulnerable sectors and countries. Photo: PMA

HAVANA TIMES – The coronavirus pandemic will affect the poorest most vulnerable countries and women hardest. This calls for solidarity and a rebuke of protectionism, including political coordination among the economic leaders of the world, stated the UN secretary general, António Guterres.

This crisis “has no precedent in the 75 years the UN has existed in terms of spreading human suffering and impacting the global economy. Workers all around the world could lose up to 3.4 billion dollars in wages, and this puts people’s lives at risk,” said Guterres on Thursday, March 19th.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has warned that as many as 25 million jobs will be lost around the world. Women, for their work as laborers and caretakers, and the youth, are the most affected sectors.

The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom, reported that same Thursday that more that 70% of the world’s nations have preparedness response plans to deal with covid-19, but only half of them have programs for prevention and control and are actually implementing them.

“Our world faces a common enemy. We are at war with a virus. This is, after all, a human crisis that calls for solidarity. People are sick, scared and suffering, and our social web is being torn apart,” asserted Guterres.

Given the sharp rise in emergency teleconferencing, the Group of 20 (G-20, the world’s largest industrialized economies) meets this week, said a high level official at the UN, “the magnitude of the response must be as great as the magnitude of the crisis.”

Guterres warned the G20 that “poorly coordinated responses will risk shutting off and worsening the inequalities that are already unsustainable, undoing the advances made in development and reduction of poverty gained through much effort.”

The secretary general called on all world leaders to offer a coordinated, joint response in three ways: confronting the health emergency, focusing on social impact and economic recovery in a way that “betters the lives of people compared to beforehand.”

He advocated for the immediate increase in investment in health care, since “it has been demonstrated the virus can be contained.” If we let it continue to spread, like a forest fire, especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world, millions of people will die.”

“And we must resist the temptation to go back to protectionism. This is the time to remove barriers to markets and reestablish the supply chains,” warned the UN chief.

In contrast to the economic crisis of 2008, this crisis “is not a banking crisis, in fact, the banks should be part of the solution,” guaranteeing liquidity and using their ability to support clients, added Guterres.

“This situation is essentially a human crisis. The most important thing to do is focus on people: the most vulnerable, low-income workers and small and medium-sized businesses. This includes wage supports, insurance, and prevention of a total break-down of the employment system,” he emphasized.

“The recovery cannot fall on the backs of the poor. We cannot create a new legion of poor people,” insisted the UN leader.

Guterres noted that the United Nations, in their Framework on Sustainable Development for 2030, proposes to help all governments and people come through this crisis even stronger.

“More than ever, we need solidarity, hope and political will to overcome this crisis together,” he stressed.

The pandemic finds the whole world in a crisis of liquidity and a reduction of funds beyond historical levels. This will limit the possibilities for aid to the most defenseless communities and countries to combat the war on covid19 and the dramatic social and economic consequences, further warned Guterres.

In fact, the WHO had to create a Solidarity Response Fund in order to gather the 675 million dollars needed to fight the virus for three months, something that was achieved thanks to the support of institutions and individuals.   

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