Coronavirus: Pandemic exposes global inequality, says UN head


COVID-19 has exposed “fallacies and falsehoods everywhere,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said, adding that global leaders need to build a more equal and sustainable world.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has compared the coronavirus pandemic to an “x-ray” that has exposed deep global inequalities and “fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built.”

Delivering a lecture for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Guterres lambasted rich countries for failing “to deliver the support needed to help the developing world.”

The UN has appealed for $10.3 billion (€9 billion) to help poor states hit by the pandemic, but has so far only received $1.7 billion.

“Entire regions that were making progress on eradicating poverty and narrowing inequality have been set back years, in a matter of months,” he warned, adding that the crisis could trigger “famines of historic proportions” and push 100 million more people into poverty.

Guterres stressed that there needed to be a new global system with change “at the top: in global institutions.”

He ended his address by urging leaders to build a more equal and sustainable world: “Will we succumb to chaos, division and equality? Or will we right the wrongs of the past and move forward together, for the good of all?”

Germany has said it is prepared to provide an additional €3 billion in international aid to countries struggling to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The funds will be made available as long-term loans for the International Monetary Fund’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz made the announcement during a meeting of G20 ministers in Saudi Arabia. The Finance Ministry said Germany has set aside a total of 14.4% of its 2020 gross domestic product to address the effects of the pandemic.

Afghanistan has launched a food distribution program to support people who are struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to German news agency DPA, Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh said the $244 million (€215 million) scheme would deliver aid packages containing rice, beans, wheat, oil and soap to affected families.

The United Nations has warned that 14 million Afghans will need aid to survive in 2020, almost twice as many as in December 2019. Saleh said the new food program, to be implemented by NGOs, would benefit around 4 million families.

Millions of migrant workers laid off under lockdown cannot send money home, vaccination programmes for childhood diseases are on hold, and countries already enduring years of conflict are ill equipped to handle Covid-19.

In Yemen, a quarter of all those confirmed to have had the virus have died from it, five times the global average.

An appeal to help the world’s most vulnerable through the coronavirus pandemic has been launched by the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

Fourteen charities – including Oxfam, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and the British Red Cross – will join together to ask the British public to donate.

The UK government will double the first £5m of donations.

Much of the money will go to refugee camps, where overcrowding and poor sanitation allows the virus to spread.

The DEC, which is made up of 14 of Britain’s largest aid charities, will spend donations on providing food, water and medical care to people in countries such as Syria, Yemen and South Sudan.

Other target countries are Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The DEC estimates there are 24 million internally-displaced people in these countries. A further 850,000 Rohingya people have fled violence to live in Bangladesh’s camps.

Donations will also be spent on providing soap to vulnerable families and on providing information about the dangers of the spread of the disease.

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Countries seeing a rise in daily deaths

While the UK and much of Europe appears to have passed its peak for deaths of people with coronavirus, there are many countries around the world currently seeing a rise, many of them in more vulnerable parts of the world. These include:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Colombia
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Panama
  • Philippines
  • Venezuela
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International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Clean water and healthcare in refugee camps are essential in containing coronavirus in the developing world – helping stop the spread of the pandemic and protecting the UK from further waves of infection.”

So far, £769m in UK aid has been pledged globally to fight the pandemic, according to the Department for International Development.

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