Guterres: health of Africa ‘hangs in the balance’ from COVID, $200 billion stimulus needed urgently

The health of all those in Africa ‘hangs in the balance’ because of COVID-19 and the world must stand in solidarity with the continent, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Wednesday.

To date, the new coronavirus has claimed more than 2,500 African lives, and many countries have moved swiftly to prevent the spread of infection by deploying health workers, enforcing quarantines and border closures, Mr. Guterres said.

Continued vigilance and preparedness are critical in these “early days” of the pandemic, the UN chief insisted, as he launched a pandemic resilience blueprint for African nations who’ve been hard-hit by falling tourism, lower remittances and less demand for commodities.

“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… It will also be essential for African countries to sustain their efforts to silence the guns and address violent extremism – and I welcome African support for my call for a global ceasefire.”

In line with his call for a global fund to get countries back on their feet after COVID, Mr. Guterres said that Africa should receive more than $200 billion in additional support from the international community.

Women remain central to every aspect of the pandemic response and stimulus packages must prioritize “putting cash in their hands”, he said.