The United Nations is pleading for $2bn in international humanitarian aid to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in poorer countries, UN chief Antonio Guterres said while launching a major donation appeal.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera on Wednesday, Guterres said COVID-19 was threatening the whole of humanity and “the only war necessary today is the war against the coronavirus”.
The secretary-general stressed the needs of vulnerable people living in slums and refugee camps around the world.
“There are dramatic humanitarian needs for these people even without this pandemic. But now, with COVID-19, we need to do everything possible to prevent the disease from coming to these areas,” Guterres told James Bays, Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor.
“It is very difficult for these people to be living in self-isolation. There, households often don’t have water, no soap, and healthcare facilities are extremely rudimentary.
“So we need to boost the response capacity in those areas,” Guterres said.
“That’s why we mobilised all UN agencies and NGOs to work together with these funds, these $2bn, to make sure that we are able to make a strong push for prevention in those vulnerable areas, and at the same time to bring the equipment that is required; ventilators, tests, suits for staff to allow for contact with people on the ground.”
To counter the pandemic in warring countries, the UN has called for a ceasefire in major conflicts around the world, including in Syria, Yemen and Libya.
Yemen’s warring parties welcomed the call for an immediate truce on Thursday as the country entered its sixth year of a conflict that has unleashed a humanitarian crisis, rendering it more vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak.
Late on Wednesday, a Saudi-led military coalition said it backed the Yemeni government’s acceptance of the UN appeal.
Their foe, the Houthi movement, welcomed that stance but said it wants to see implementation on the ground.
“The most important sides in Yemen have declared that they would accept the ceasefire. Other powers in the world say that they are ready to abide by it,” Guterres told Al Jazeera.
“Diplomats around the world are pushing for this appeal to be translated into diplomatic action. We have initiatives in Syria, Libya and Yemen and many other parts of the world.
“I hope that the appeal will be heard and that people understand that there is only one war that is necessary today and that is the war against the virus,” Guterres added.