By Michelle Nichols
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United Nations on Thursday more than tripled its appeal to help vulnerable countries combat the spread and destabilizing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, asking for $6.7 billion to help 63 states mainly in Africa and Latin America.
While the United States and Europe are in the grip of the outbreak, U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock warned that the virus was not expected to peak in the world’s poorest countries until some point over the next three to six months.
“In the poorest countries, we can already see economies contracting as export earnings, remittances and tourism disappear. Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty,” he said.
“The spectre of multiple famines looms,” Lowcock warned.
The new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, has infected some 3.7 million people globally and more than 263,000 have died, according to a Reuters tally. The virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
The United Nations initially appealed for $2 billion for the global humanitarian response plan at the end of March. As of May 5, the world body said it had received some $923 million.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last month raised concerns about inadequate support for poor countries as he lamented a lack of leadership by world powers and a divided international community in the fight against the coronavirus.
The 15-member U.N. Security Council has spent more than six weeks trying to negotiate a resolution that would emphasize the urgent need for enhanced cooperation among all countries in the fight against the coronavirus and call for a humanitarian truce in conflicts around the world.
Diplomats say negotiations are stuck on a standoff between the United States and China over how the resolution should reference the World Health Organization. Washington has criticized the U.N. agency’s handling of the pandemic and accused it of being “China-centric,” an assertion it denies.
Amid the council talks and broader growing tensions between the United States and China over the pandemic, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft and Chinese U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun clashed on Twitter on Wednesday over the origins of the virus.
“#Covid19 is killing thousands of people worldwide, yet the Chinese Communist Party has not come clean about what it knows about this crisis that began in #Wuhan,” Craft posted.
Jun responded: “All the facts are on the table. People are still dying in this country. Save lives. Blaming China cannot shrug off your own responsibilities.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bernadette Baum)