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Coronavirus – Africa: As COVID cases hit 20M, David Miliband, President and CEO of the IRC, raises alarm on growing numbers in fragile contexts


David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said, “20 million global COVID-19 cases is a dire milestone and evidence that national leaders must look beyond their borders in the fight against COVID. These figures are a wake-up call for donors and policy makers, especially for legislators in the US negotiating a COVID aid package  for the international response. The immediate needs to prevent, respond and mitigate the humanitarian effects of the disease are great and growing. The consequences of this virus going unchecked among the most vulnerable populations in the world cannot be overstated – especially as we see many parts of Europe and the US entering a second phase of lockdowns. To truly defeat this virus anywhere, we need to defeat it everywhere, including in countries and communities outside of today’s headlines. In low- and middle-income countries, prevention is key to global recovery. Meanwhile, while wealthy nations have dedicated over $11 trillion to domestic COVID-19 responses, the UN Global Humanitarian Response Plan remains woefully underfunded, with just $2 billion pledged of $10 billion needed.

“20 million cases speaks to a worrying acceleration in the reach of the virus globally: it took just over 5 weeks to accrue 10 million additional cases worldwide, indicating the spread of the virus is speeding up, not slowing down. As also previously warned by the IRC, Coronavirus was never just a concern for rich countries: while the United States still maintains a global record with 5 million cases alone, the epicenter of the virus’ spread has now shifted away from developed and onto developing and fragile contexts, already struggling with beleaguered health systems, active conflict or growing hunger. The African continent surpassed one million cases, amidst serious concerns of testing shortfalls; Southeast Asia over 2.5 million; and finally the Americas, which now shoulders over 50% of the global caseload, with at least 10.5 million cases and counting. All the more concerning are reports of death counts doubling at extraordinary rates: fragile countries like Libya have seen these double in just over 2 weeks; in Syria, Colombia and Venezuela, in 3 weeks; in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, in a month alone. Beyond immediate threat to life and limb, these 20 million cases beget additional harms especially for the most vulnerable- including escalation in local conflict and political instability, food insecurity, gender-based violence, and prolonged economic hardship. The call for action on behalf of the international community has never been clearer or more urgent.” 

The IRC has developed a comprehensive mitigation and response plan which touches every country where we work, including 21 countries across Africa, and focuses on preparing for, preventing and responding to the spread of coronavirus within vulnerable communities, and meeting our clients’ other immediate health and economic needs and expanding our protection services for women and girls. While ensuring the safety of our staff, we are working to adapt and continue our lifesaving programming uninterrupted as much as possible. The IRC has launched an appeal to help us mitigate the spread of coronavirus among the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Rescue Committee.

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