UN triples coronavirus appeal to $6.7bn to help poor countries

The United Nations wants the money to help people in 63 countries, mainly in Africa and Latin America.

    A resident from Alexandra township gets tested for COVID-19 in Johannesburg, South Africa [File: Jerome Delay/ The Associated Press]
    A resident from Alexandra township gets tested for COVID-19 in Johannesburg, South Africa [File: Jerome Delay/ The Associated Press]

    The United Nations on Thursday more than tripled its appeal to help vulnerable countries combat the spread and destabilising effects of the coronavirus pandemic, asking for $6.7bn to help 63 nations, mainly in Africa and Latin America.

    While the United States and Europe are in the grip of the outbreak, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock warned that the virus was not expected to peak in the world's poorest countries until some point over the next three to six months.

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    "In the poorest countries, we can already see economies contracting as export earnings, remittances and tourism disappear. Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty," he said.

    "The spectre of multiple famines looms," Lowcock warned.

    The new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, has infected some 3.7 million people globally, and more than 263,000 have died, according to a Reuters tally. The virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

    The UN initially appealed for $2bn for the global humanitarian response plan at the end of March. As of May 5, the world body said it had received some $923m.

    UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last month raised concerns about inadequate support for poor countries as he lamented a lack of leadership by world powers and a divided international community in the fight against the coronavirus.

    The 15-member UN Security Council has spent more than six weeks trying to negotiate a resolution that would emphasise the urgent need for enhanced cooperation among all countries in the fight against the coronavirus and call for a humanitarian truce in conflicts around the world.

    Diplomats say negotiations are stuck on a standoff between the US and China over how the resolution should reference the World Health Organization. Washington has criticised the UN agency's handling of the pandemic and accused it of being "China-centric", an assertion it denies.

    Amid the council talks and broader growing tensions between the US and China over the pandemic, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft and Chinese UN Ambassador Zhang Jun clashed on Twitter on Wednesday over the origins of the virus.

    "#Covid19 is killing thousands of people worldwide, yet the Chinese Communist Party has not come clean about what it knows about this crisis that began in #Wuhan," Craft posted.

    Jun responded: "All the facts are on the table. People are still dying in this country. Save lives. Blaming China cannot shrug off your own responsibilities."

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency