Africa: UN Chief Says Help Needed to Avoid Extreme Poverty in Africa On the Back of COVID-19

The United Nations chief Antonia Guterres says the Covid-19 pandemic threatens the progress made by African nations and warns that "much hangs in the balance". He called for international support to avoid the continent falling into extreme poverty.

Launching a policy report titled The Impact of Covid-19 in Africa via video message on Wednesday, UN chief Antonio Guterres stressed that the Covid-19 pandemic had the "potential to aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease," on the African continent.

He asserted that Africa was still in the early days of coronavirus infection, compared with other continents, warning that disruption could escalate quickly.

According to the report, the virus is present in all African countries, with most recording fewer than 1,000 cases. So far there have been more than 2,500 deaths.

The relatively low numbers of Covid-19 cases was a promising sign, he said, but suggests the low numbers could be linked to minimal testing and reporting.

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The United Nations insists that caution and vigilance are needed until the life cycle of the disease is better understood.

To help address the devastating economic and social consequences of the pandemic, Guterres called on the international community to step up, financially and logistically.

He said Africa needs more than 200 billion dollars and "an across-the-board debt standstill for African countries", followed by targeted debt relief.

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"We are calling for international action to strengthen Africa's health systems, maintain food supplies, avoid a financial crisis, support education, protect jobs, keep households and businesses afloat, and cushion the continent against lost income and export earnings," he said.

He put a particular emphasis on the role of women and young people in the community.

"Stimulus packages must prioritize increasing social protection and putting cash in their [women's] hands," he said.

African Union and Covid-19 aid

The key recommendations of the report focused on five main areas; health, economy, food security, peace and security and recovery.

Guterres stressed that much progress had been made on the continent when it came to economic development and a digital revolution, achievements that were under threat from the virus if aide were not forthcoming.

"Ending the pandemic in Africa is essential for ending it across the world," Guterres concluded.

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