UN chief wants $2bn to help poor countries fight COVID-19

COVID-19 has drawn comparisons to devastating periods such as WWII, the 2008 financial crisis and the 1918 Spanish flu.

    United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wants billions of dollars to help developing countries fight the coronavirus [File: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]
    United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wants billions of dollars to help developing countries fight the coronavirus [File: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

    United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said on Monday that the world body wants $2bn to help poor countries combat coronavirus - and he warned that a massive, coordinated package would also be needed to deal with the pandemic's social and economic impact around the world.

    "The package needs to make households be afloat, make businesses be afloat, keep societies being afloat," Guterres told a virtual news conference.

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    "This will require a double-digit of GDP [gross domestic product] support in the developed world and creating the conditions through the IMF [International Monetary Fund], through the swaps among central banks, through the creation of new facilities," Guterres said.

    So far, more than 351,00 people have been infected with the coronavirus, and more than 15,330 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

    The spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus has drawn comparisons with devastating periods such as World War II, the 2008 financial crisis and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

    "We need a much stronger coordination," said Guterres, adding that he had written to the world's 20 largest economies - the G20 or Group of 20 nations - and would join their virtual meeting later this week.

    That coordination would mean "making sure that not only the developed countries can respond effectively to the disease, but that there is massive support to the developing world not to let the disease spread like wildfire", he said.

    Guterres said he would launch a $2bn humanitarian appeal on Wednesday.

    He also called for a global ceasefire so the world can focus on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

    "It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives," Guterres said.

    The UN has been trying to mediate an end to conflicts in countries including Syria, Yemen and Libya, while also providing humanitarian assistance to millions of civilians.

    "End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world," Guterres said. "It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever."

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency