Health security is a global chain whose links are the health systems of all nations. That chain is only as strong as the weakest link.
So the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in collaboration with humanitarian partners across the world has produced a COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) which aims to enable us to fight the virus in the world’s poorest countries, and address the needs of the most vulnerable people.
It sets out what needs to be done to provide laboratory materials for testing, supplies to protect health-care workers and medical equipment to treat the sick. It will bring water and sanitation to places that desperately need it, and enable aid workers to get to the places they are needed.
The bill is currently estimated at $2 billion, but some countries have not yet published their plans so OCHA will issue updates to the plan in the coming weeks.
The UN has issued a $2 billion appeal to combat COVID-19. If countries follow their normal response to UN appeals, far less than half of this will be forthcoming. The global health security chain is therefore likely to fall to pieces, and no matter how much each country invests in its own response the the virus, it will continue to circulate until a vaccine is produced and used to eradicate the disease.
Speaking at the virtual launch of the response plan, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said: “To leave the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries to their fate would be both cruel and unwise. If we leave coronavirus to spread freely in these places, we would be placing millions at high risk, whole regions will be tipped into chaos and the virus will have the opportunity to circle back around the globe.”
Mr. Lowcock noted that countries battling the pandemic at home are rightly prioritizing people living in their own communities. “But the hard truth is they will be failing to protect their own people if they do not act now to help the poorest countries protect themselves,” he stressed.
Member States were warned that any diversion of funding from existing humanitarian operations would create an environment in which cholera, measles and meningitis can thrive, in which even more children become malnourished, and in which extremists can take control – an environment that would be the perfect breeding ground for the coronavirus.
To kick-start the response plan, Mr. Lowcock released an additional $60 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). This brings CERF’s support to humanitarian action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to $75 million. In addition, country-based pooled funds have allocated more than $3 million so far.