As the UN calls for $US2 billion to help fight COVID-19 in poverty-stricken and war-ravaged nations, aid agency CARE Australia says helping the world’s most vulnerable people is key to ending this pandemic.
In a briefing on Wednesday New York time, UN Secretary General António Guterres warned the virus could keep circling back around the globe unless all countries were able to eliminate it.
CARE Australia CEO Peter Walton said Australia had both a strategic imperative and a moral responsibility to help countries with weaker healthcare systems.
“Helping the world’s most vulnerable people in the fight against COVID-19 is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do,” Mr Walton said.
“Most of the countries where CARE works – such as those in South East Asia, the Pacific Islands and sub-Saharan Africa – have drastically under-resourced health systems and they’re going to need a significant funding boost to get through this.
“Even once we contain the virus in Australia, we won’t be able to go back to ‘normal’ until other countries have done the same. We live in an interconnected world, so it’s crucial we start helping vulnerable nations now where we can.”
The first cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in war-ravaged Syria and close to Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Mr Walton said aid agencies were extremely concerned about what will happen if there is an outbreak in a war zone or a refugee camp.
“In places such as Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are living in very close quarters, social distancing is almost impossible. We’re stepping up our efforts to get people soap, clean water and information on how to prevent the spread of the virus.”
The UN has released a plan for preventing and responding to COVID-19 in 53 vulnerable countries, including Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. They are now seeking a total of $US2 billion from wealthier countries, including Australia, to fund the plan.
Mr Walton said in addition to contributing to the UN plan, Australia’s own aid program was also crucial at a time like this.
“For decades, Australian aid has been helping our neighbours in Asia and the Pacific Islands to prepare for a situation like this by training health workers and teaching people how to prevent the spread of disease.
“Our neighbours and other vulnerable countries around the world are going to continue to need our support at this time – both to overcome COVID-19 and to rebuild economies and societies once it has passed.”
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