Health May 20, 2020
Covid-19 may cause hunger and poverty for millions in Africa, UN chief warns 

By Fabian Sutch-Daggett - World Healthcare Journal

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, today praised the swift response of African nations against the coronavirus pandemic but also warned that Covid-19 could push millions into extreme poverty, dealing huge damage to the progress made on the continent.

Following the launch of a UN policy report on how the pandemic has affected Africa, “The Impact of COVID-19 in Africa”,  Guterres issued a virtual statement explaining that countries on the continent have responded swiftly to the crisis, and at the time of publication, reported cases are far lower than expected - with just over 2,500 deaths.

However, the report noted that it is still “too early to know the full impact of Covid-19 on Africa” and, that while the relatively low numbers of cases across 47 African nations is promising, these statistics could be due to low testing and reporting capabilities. A spike towards exponential growth following small case numbers in the early stages of the virus has been seen in many nations around the world - and could still be possible in Africa.

“Caution is warranted, however, as these are early days in the life cycle of a disease that is still not fully understood and where we have seen repeated patterns of first slow, then exponential growth in the number of cases. ” 

Furthermore, the WHO has warned in the report that Covid-19 “could kill between 83,000 and 190,000 people in 47 African countries in the first year, mostly depending on governments’ responses.

In his statement, Guterres called for an international response to ensure that millions are not pushed into extreme poverty and hunger as a result of the pandemic.

“The pandemic threatens African progress. It will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease,” Guterres said in his response.

“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. ” 

Guterres also noted that once a vaccine is available, African nations must have quick, equal, and affordable access to such treatments, deeming them “global public goods”.

In addition, to prevent widespread economic collapse due to the pandemic, Guterres explained that Africa needs more than $200 billion USD and “an across-the-board debt standstill for African countries” for nations unable to service their debt. He also spoke of the need for “targeted debt relief, and a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture to prevent defaults. ” 


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