Mark Lowcock

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 (APP):The United Nations Friday called on wealthy countries to “step up now or pay the price later”, warning that the coronavirus crisis will “wreak havoc” in developing countries.

Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary for humanitarian affairs, made that call, as he released an updated $10.3 billion appeal to fight pandemic that has hit 63 low-income countries.

“The pandemic and associated global recession are about to wreak havoc in fragile and low-income countries”, he said during press briefing.

“The response of wealthy nations so far has been grossly inadequate and dangerously short-sighted. Failure to act now will leave the virus free to circle round the globe, undo decades of development and create a generation’s worth of tragic and exportable problems,” Lowcock said.

“It doesn’t have to be like this, this is a problem that can be fixed with money from wealthy nations and fresh thinking from the shareholders of international financial institutions and supporters of UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and NGOs.”

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“Inaction will leave the virus free to circle the globe, it will undo decades of development and it will create a generation worth of tragic and exportable problems,” he added.

To date, more than 13.7 million people have contracted the virus worldwide, resulting in almost 590,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, an American research institution.

The top humanitarian official’s stark message came as the UN launched the third phase of its Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP), appealing for $10.3 billion to support vulnerable countries this year.

The first part, launched in late March, asked for roughly $2 billion, a figure that grew to $6.7 billion in the second edition of the plan, revealed in May. At $10.3 billion, this by far the largest humanitarian appeal in the UN’s 75-year history.

Lowcock fears that unless G20 Industrialized countries act now, they will face a series of human tragedies more brutal and destructive than the direct health impacts of the pandemic.

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“Rich countries have thrown out the rulebook when it comes to protecting their own economies. They must apply the same exceptional measures to countries that need help”, he declared.

“The prospect of cascading crises more brutal and destructive than anything the virus alone can do must jolt us all out of our comfort zone.”

UN agencies estimate that due to disruptions to health systems caused by the pandemic, some 6,000 children could die each every day from preventable causes, while annual deaths from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, could double.

Humanitarians said the first confirmed case of the disease was reported in Idlib, Syria, last week, sparking fears of a devastating outbreak in crowded camps housing millions of people displaced by the country’s nearly decade-long conflict.