United Nations Seeks US $10.3 Billion For Humanitarian COVID-19 Relief; UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Blasts Lackluster Response From G20 Nations
UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock

The United Nations has requested US $10.3 billion to help lower income countries struggling to deal with the direct effects and aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, doubling its ask from May, according to a new UN Humanitarian Response Plan launched today. 

The ask comes just as Finance Ministers and heads of central banks of the G20, who represent the world’s most developed countries and largest economies, are set to meet via video conference for the third time this year on Saturday. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock directed the ask at the G20 countries, specifically referencing the upcoming Finance Ministers’ meeting. 

“I do have to say that… wealthy nations [have rightly] thrown out preset fiscal and monetary rulebooks to protect their people and their economies. Their response has been grossly inadequate when it comes to helping out the poorer countries, and that is dangerously short-sighted,” said Lowcock.

Rich countries would need to invest less than 1% of the trillions of dollars they have already put into their countries’ own coronavirus responses in order to protect poorer countries from more drastic effects of the virus, according to Lowcock.

“I want to contrast between the global response to the 2008-2009 financial crisis, where there was good coordination and real stepping up by better-off countries, through the G20, particularly in reinforcing the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank to help the poorer countries,” he added. “It’s an unfortunate contrast to what we’re seeing now.

“It is a much bigger crisis, and every country is affected by it. But unfortunately, we don’t yet have a commensurate from the wealthier countries in support of the poorer countries.

“Our advice is that needs to change if the whole world does not want to look back in 2-3 years time after multiple, cascading crises and wonder why we didn’t address them better.”

Pandemic Could Cause New Conflicts To Erupt
A child holds up bullets collected from the ground in a village near North Darfur, Sudan. Many people from the area have been displaced by surges of violence.

“An additional 13 countries are projected to experience new conflicts between 2020 and 2022 relative to pre-pandemic forecasts. If that materializes, global instability will reach a new 30-year high,” Lowcock told reporters, citing an analysis prepared by Oxford University and Lowcock’s team. “Conflict is expensive.

“The minimum cost incurred during an average civil war to both host and neighboring countries has been estimated at approximately $60 billion.”

The pandemic could induce the first rise in global poverty levels in three decades, and cause new refugee outflows.

“At least 70 to 100 million people could be pushed back into the extreme poverty category. In addition, an extra 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation,” he said.

UN Plan Will Help Conflict-Affected & Poor Countries Recover From Pandemic
Volunteers at Bidyanando Foundation, a local NGO in Bangladesh, distribute cooked food.

Some 63 fragile countries facing unrest and conflict in the background of the COVID-19 pandemic will benefit from the funding, according to the costed plan. A draft of the plan was published earlier this week by The New Humanitarian

Approximately US $8.4 billion will be directed towards country-level responses, and US $1.8 billion will be directed towards “global requirements,”  said Lowcock. Some US $1 billion alone will be used for transporting aid workers and supplies.

An additional US $300 million will be allocated for NGOs directly, and US $500 million will be used for famine prevention.

“COVID-19 and the associated global recession are about to wreak havoc in fragile and low-income countries,” said Lowcock.

“My message today… to rich nations is that, unless we act now, we should be prepared for a series of human tragedies, more brutal and more destructive than any of the direct impacts of the virus itself in action,” he added, speaking at a press briefing Friday hosted by the World Health Organization. 

Fragile countries will need an estimated total of US $90 billion to recover from the direct and indirect effects of the COVID-19 crisis, and the UN ask for US $10.3 billion represents merely a fraction of the total amount required.  

However, even US $90 billion would be less than 1% of the stimulus packages wealthy countries have already passed to shield their own citizens from COVID-19 related shocks, Lowcock said. 

So far, the UN has raised US $1.7 billion to fund the plan, leaving a shortfall of US $8.6 billion. The humanitarian needs have increased at a faster rate than funding is rising.  

“The gap between the need and the funding is growing. And we’re seeing another compounding problem, we’re seeing more countries under economic distress and being dragged down to the level of requiring humanitarian aid,” said Lowcock.

Image Credits: UN Photo/Mark Garten, UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran, UN Women.