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UN makes largest appeal ever for funds to fight pandemic

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In a dire warning, the United Nations has asked the rich counties to step up and help the poorer countries to fight the effects of the pandemic before it was too late. 

Ahead of the meeting between the G20 finance ministers this weekend, the United Nations has issued a dire warning regarding the pandemic – help out those in need now or face the consequences later. Armed with the findings prepared for the UN by the economics department at Oxford, UN’s emergency relief coordinator Mark Lowcock made an appeal of $10.3 billion. The sum reportedly is the single largest appeal made in the 75-year history of the organisation.

In March, the UN had made an appeal for $2 billion, but this had to be updated in light of the severity of the pandemic and its far-reaching consequences. That means the UN would be able to help 200 million people in 63 counties, instead of the 108 million it had planned for earlier. The money will go towards helping NGOs and also covering dedicated transportation for the UN necessitated by the crumbling of civilian airline services.

So far it has managed to raise only $1.7 billion, primarily due to decline of donations from Gulf countries. The UN is hoping that this call for aid will be considered in the upcoming EU and US budgets. Withholding aid now is “dangerously short-sighted” and rich countries like the G20 needed to “step up now or pay later”, according to Lowcock.

He contrasted this with the energy and enthusiasm that went into the global response following the financial crisis in 2008. The fallout now is much worse and the response is not commensurate. Without aid, 640 million people could be infected and 1.7 million killed in the world’s poorest countries. This is apart from the 1.7 million who could die from preventable deaths like HIV, TB and malaria but don’t get the care they need because of the pandemic.

But the true impact of the virus will come from the social distancing and lockdown laws put in place, which will devastate their economies. The world is staring at the first absolute rise in poverty since 1990. It is expected that 70-100 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty of less than $1.90 income a day. The number of people facing famine could also double.

If the virus weren’t contained, it would circle the globe undoing decades of development work and result in human tragedies more cruel than any direct consequence of the virus. If Europe, with the virus receding from its land, is already forgetting the havoc it is wrecking on world economies, it should be reminded that if action were not taken now, a second wave of the virus hitting their countries would lead to a drastic loss of output.

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