Battle against COVID-19 the Third World War?

Battle against COVID-19 the Third World War?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

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Rarely has a United Nations secretary general sounded a more urgent and chilling alarm than Mr Antonio Guterres as he launched a US$2-billion global humanitarian response plan yesterday to fight the devastating 2019 novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

The UN was founded 75 years ago to engender international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, and promote social progress, better living standards and human rights after two devastating wars.

But Mr Guterres was not concerned about countries fighting against countries, as in World Wars I and II, which led to its establishment, but a common enemy that is ravaging the inhabitants of the world's 195 countries.

Do we exaggerate in likening it to the Third World War?

With COVID-19 figures standing at 462,781 confirmed cases and 20,877 deaths globally at Jamaica Observer press time yesterday, the UN secretary general summoned the world to fight the disease together, saying: “A global approach is the only way to fight COVID-19.”

The UN chief especially highlighted vulnerable countries with weak health systems and warned that failing “to help them fight the coronavirus now could place millions at risk and leave the virus free to circle back around the globe”.

He suggested that the $2-billion global humanitarian response was needed mostly in 51 countries across South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Coincidentally, the UN was launched on October 24, 1945 by 51 countries.

Mr Guterres urged developed countries to give full support to the global humanitarian response plan, but not to cease funding for existing humanitarian appeals related to conflicts, natural disasters, and climate change.

Specifically, he called for:

• essential laboratory equipment to test for the virus, and medical supplies to treat people;

• hand-washing stations in refugee camps and settlements;

• public information campaigns on how to protect yourself and others from the virus; and

• airbridges and hubs across Africa, Asia, and Latin America to move humanitarian workers and supplies to where they are needed most.

“COVID-19 is menacing the whole of humanity, and so the whole of humanity must fight back. Individual country responses are not going to be enough,” Mr Guterres implored.

“We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves. This is a matter of basic human solidarity. It is also crucial for combating the virus. This is the moment to step up for the vulnerable,” he said.

His desperate appeal was joined by Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, who said: “COVID-19 has already upended life in some of the world's wealthiest countries. It is now reaching places where people live in war zones, cannot easily access clean water and soap, and have no hope of a hospital bed if they fall critically ill.

“To leave the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries to their fate would be both cruel and unwise… Countries battling the pandemic at home are rightly prioritising people living in their own communities.

“But the hard truth is they will be failing to protect their own people if they do not act now to help the poorest countries protect themselves.”


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