The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic threatens Africa’s progress, although the vast continent seems to be relatively spared from the scourge of the virus so far.
There have been less than 3,000 deaths from COVID-19 out of some 88,000 cases of the disease reported throughout Africa. That could be, in part, due to the fact that many countries across the continent took swift action in imposing preventative measures to stem the spread of the virus.
“As of now, reported cases are lower than feared,” Guterres said in a video message Wednesday, while warning that “much hangs in the balance” and the pandemic “will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease.”
The U.N. chief called 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.” He said the continent needs more than $200 billion and “an across-the-board debt standstill for African countries” to help address the devastating economic and social fallout of the crisis.
“Already, demand for Africa’s commodities, tourism and remittances are declining,” Guterres said, adding that “the opening of the trade zone has been pushed back.”