A global approach is the only way to fight COVID-19, the UN says as it launches a humanitarian response plan. Failing to help vulnerable countries fight the coronavirus now could place millions at risk and leave the virus free to circle back around the globe. Lee Kok Leong, executive editor, Maritime Fairtrade, reports
COVID-19 has already devastated some of the world’s richest countries and is now spreading in those with weak health systems, including some which are already facing existing humanitarian crises. These are countries where people live in warzones, cannot easily access clean water and soap, and have no hope of a hospital bed if they fall critically ill.
It is both unethical and inhumane to ignore the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. If COVID-19 is to spread freely, infecting millions of them, then the whole region will be at high risk and there is a high probability the virus will circle back around the globe. Of course, rich countries fighting the outbreak are rightly prioritizing citizens. However, the hard truth is that they will be failing to protect their citizens if they do not act now to help the poorest countries.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on 25 Mar launched a US$2 billion coordinated global humanitarian response plan to fight COVID-19 in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries in a bid to protect millions of people and stop the virus. COVID-19 has a foothold across the globe and is now reaching countries that were already facing humanitarian crisis because of conflict, natural disasters and climate change.
The response plan will be implemented by UN agencies, with international NGOs and NGO consortia playing a direct role in the response.
- Deliver essential laboratory equipment to test for the virus, and medical supplies to treat people;
- Install handwashing stations in camps and settlements;
- Launch public information campaigns on how to protect yourself and others from the virus; and
- Establish airbridges and hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to move humanitarian workers and supplies to where they are needed most.
Secretary-General Guterres said: “COVID-19 is menacing the whole of humanity and so the whole of humanity must fight back. Individual country responses are not going to be enough. We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable – millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves. This is a matter of basic human solidarity. It is also crucial for combating the virus. This is the moment to step up for the vulnerable.”