Africa: COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launches a COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan with Under- Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
press release

A global approach is the only way to fight COVID-19, the UN says as it launches humanitarian response plan

  • UN humanitarian chief warns that 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.
  • UN launches US$2 billion global humanitarian response to fight COVID-19 in 51 countries across South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
  • Governments urged to commit to fully supporting the global humanitarian response plan, while sustaining funding to existing humanitarian appeals.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, on Wednesday, 25 March, 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 from circling back around the globe.

COVID-19 has killed more than 16,000 people worldwide and there are nearly 400,000 reported cases. It 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. It will:

  • 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.

United Nations Secretary-General António 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."

[See full remarks further down].

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said:

"COVID-19 has already upended life in some of the world's wealthiest countries. It is now reaching places 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.

"To leave the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries to their fate would be both cruel and unwise. If we leave coronavirus to spread freely in these places, we would be placing millions at high risk, whole regions will be tipped into chaos and the virus will have the opportunity to circle back around the globe.

"Countries battling the pandemic at home are rightly prioritizing people living in their own communities. But the hard truth is they will be failing to protect their own people if they do not act now to help the poorest countries protect themselves.

"Our priority is to help these countries prepare and continue helping the millions who rely on humanitarian assistance from the UN to survive. Properly funded, our global response effort will equip humanitarian organizations with the tools to fight the virus, save lives, and help contain the spread of COVID-19 worldwide."

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:

"The virus is now spreading in countries with weak health systems, including some which are already facing humanitarian crises. These countries need our support - out of solidarity but also to protect us all and help suppress this pandemic. At the same time, we must not fight the pandemic at the expense of the other humanitarian health emergencies."

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore said:

"Children are the hidden victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and school closures are affecting their education, mental health and access to basic health services. The risks of exploitation and abuse are higher than ever, for boys and girls alike. For children on the move or living through conflicts, the consequences will be unlike any we have ever seen. We must not let them down."

At the virtual launch of the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, the UN Secretary-General was joined via video link by Mr. Lowcock, Dr Tedros and Ms. Fore.

Together they called on UN Member States to commit to stemming the impact of COVID-19 in vulnerable countries and containing the virus globally by giving the strongest possible support to the plan, while also sustaining core support to existing humanitarian appeals that help the more than 100 million people who already rely on humanitarian assistance from the UN just to survive.

Member States were warned that any diversion of funding from existing humanitarian operations would create an environment in which cholera, measles and meningitis can thrive, in which even more children become malnourished, and in which extremists can take control - an environment that would be the perfect breeding ground for the coronavirus.

To kick-start the response plan, Mr. Lowcock released an additional $60 million from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). This brings CERF's support to humanitarian action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to $75 million. In addition, country-based pooled funds have allocated more than $3 million so far.

This new CERF allocation - one of the largest ever made - will support: WFP to ensure the continuity of supply chains and transport of aid workers and relief goods; WHO to contain the spread of the pandemic; and other agencies to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to those most affected by the pandemic, including women and girls, refugees and internally displaced people. Support will include efforts around food security, physical and mental health, water and sanitation, nutrition and protection.

The Secretary-General's remarks from launch of Global Humanitarian Crisis Response Plan for COVID-19.

The world faces an unprecedented threat.

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly covered the globe. It has spread suffering, disrupted billions of lives and endangered the global economy.

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.

Wealthy countries with strong health systems are buckling under the pressure.

Now, the virus is arriving in countries already in the midst of humanitarian crises caused by conflicts, natural disasters and climate change.

These are places where people who have been forced to flee their homes because of bombs, violence or floods are living under plastic sheets in fields, or crammed into refugee camps or informal settlements.

They do not have homes in which to socially distance or self-isolate.

They lack clean water and soap with which to do that most basic act of self-protection against the virus - washing their hands.

And should they become critically ill, they have no way of accessing a healthcare system that can provide a hospital bed and a ventilator.

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 combatting the virus.

The world is only as strong as our weakest health system. If we do not take decisive action now, I fear the virus will establish a foothold in the most fragile countries, leaving the whole world vulnerable as it continues to circle the planet, paying no mind to borders.

This is the moment to step up for the vulnerable.

Older persons, persons with chronic illness and persons with disabilities face particular, disproportionate risks, and require an all-out effort to save their lives and protect their future.

We are also aware of the heavy impact the crisis is having on the world's women across many fronts, in particular losses of livelihood, increased burdens of unpaid care labour, and the heightened exposure to domestic violence.

Today we are launching a $2 billion global humanitarian response plan to fund the fight against COVID-19 in the world's poorest countries.

Coordinated by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, this interagency plan brings together existing appeals from the World Health Organization and other UN partners, and identifies new needs as well.

Properly funded, it will save many lives and arm humanitarian agencies and NGOs with laboratory supplies for testing, and with medical equipment to treat the sick while protecting health care workers.

The plan also includes additional measures to support host communities that continue to generously open their homes and towns to refugees and displaced persons.

We need to act now to stem the impact of COVID-19 in already vulnerable humanitarian contexts.

And we need to maintain support for existing humanitarian response plans on which 100 million people depend.

If such funding is diverted, the consequences could be catastrophic: the further spread of cholera, measles and meningitis; greater levels of child malnutrition; and a blow to the ability of these countries to combat the virus.

Let us do everything we can to prevent COVID-19 from wreaking havoc in places with limited healthcare capacity and resilience.

At the same time, we are doing our utmost to plan for and respond to early recovery in the countries around the globe that will need it most so that we achieve a new sustainable and inclusive economy that leaves no-one behind. I have asked United Nations Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams to support countries around the world in addressing the socio-economic implications of this pandemic, which will require an adequate funding mechanism.

Supporting this humanitarian response plan is a necessity for global health security.

It is a moral imperative and in everyone's interests.

And it is a crucial part of winning this fight.

I appeal to Governments to give it their full support.

Thank you.

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