A mine worker with a mask hanging on his face walks at the end of his shift during a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa, May 19, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for international action to help Africa deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"These are still early days for the pandemic in Africa, and disruption could escalate quickly. Global solidarity with Africa is an imperative -- now and for recovering better," said Guterres in a video message for the launch of a policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on Africa.
Ending the pandemic in Africa is essential for ending it across the world, he said.
"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," said Guterres.
African countries should also have quick, equal and affordable access to any eventual vaccine and treatment, that must be considered global public goods, he added.
He repeated his call for a global response package amounting to at least 10 percent of the world's gross domestic product. For Africa, that means more than $200 billion as additional support from the international community, he said.
Guterres reiterated his call for a comprehensive debt framework, starting with an across-the-board debt standstill for countries unable to service their debt, followed by targeted debt relief and a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture to prevent defaults.
African countries should work to silence the guns and address violent extremism. Political processes and elections in the coming months offer potential milestones for stability and peace. Women and youth must be empowered, said the UN chief.
He warned that the pandemic threatens African progress. "It will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease. Already, demand for Africa's commodities, tourism and remittances are declining. The opening of the trade zone has been pushed back, and millions could be pushed into extreme poverty."
The virus has taken more than 2,500 African lives. Vigilance and preparedness are critical, he said.