UN asks super-wealthy to 'step up' and donate for coronavirus relief

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The United Nations on Thursday issued a new appeal for $4.7 billion (R87 billion) in funding to "protect millions of lives and stem the spread of coronavirus in fragile countries."

"I would like to see some of the wealthiest people in the world who are making money right now step up and be generous," David Beasley, director of the UN's World Food Programme, told a videoconference.

'Step up'

Beasley urged the world's wealthiest people and companies to "step up in a major, major way," saying that "if they do, we'll all benefit - if they don't, everyone has to pay a price."

The money is on top of the $2 billion the UN already called for when it launched its global humanitarian response plan on 25 March. It has received about half of that money so far.

"The most devastating and destabilising effects" of the novel coronavirus pandemic "will be felt in the world's poorest countries," the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Mark Lowcock, said in a statement.

"Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty. The specter of multiple famines looms," he warned.

The full $6.7 billion is expected to cover costs of the humanitarian response plan until December.

Boomerang effect

It prioritises some 20 countries, including several in conflict such as Afghanistan and Syria.

The new call for donations came as nine more countries were added to the list: Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe.

The funds are to be used to buy medical equipment to test and treat the sick, provide hand-washing stations, launch information campaigns and establish humanitarian airlifts to Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to the UN.

It also aims to develop new programs to better combat food insecurity that is growing as a result of the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Extraordinary measures are needed," Lowcock stressed.

"I urge donors to act in both solidarity and in self-interest and make their response proportionate to the scale of the problem we face," he added, warning of a long-term boomerang effect if poor countries are neglected by rich countries.

Covid-19 infections are expected to peak in the world's poorest countries in the next three to six months, according to UN estimates.

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