The United Nations has called for international action to help Africa mitigate the challenges emanating from the coronavirus that has so far infected over 92,000 people and killed more than 2,900 across the continent.

António Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, urged international action to strengthen Africa’s health systems, maintain food supplies, and avoid a financial crisis.

This is in addition to supporting education, protecting jobs, keeping households and businesses afloat, and cushioning the continent against lost income and export earnings.

Guterres said African countries should also have quick, equal and affordable access to any eventual vaccine and treatment that must be considered global public goods.

“I have been calling for a global response package amounting to at least 10 per cent 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 said 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. Ending the pandemic in Africa is essential for ending it across the world,” he said.

Guterres said while Africa has made remarkable progress in advancing the continent’s people, realizing strong economic growth, digital revolution having taken hold and free trade having been agreed, the pandemic threatens the continent’s progress.

“The pandemic will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease,” Guterres said.

“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.”

Guterres advocated 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.

He urged African countries to sustain their efforts to silence the guns and address violent extremism and welcomed the continent to support his call for a global ceasefire.

“Political processes and elections in the coming months offer potential milestones for stability and peace,” Guterres said.

He called for empowerment of women through channeling stimulus packages to them and increasing social protection, empowering the youth and respecting human rights for all. “

“Many difficult decisions will need to be taken as the pandemic unfolds, and it will be essential to retain the trust and participation of citizens throughout,” Guterres said.

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