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Director General of WHO,. Tedros Ghebreyesus with UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres Director General of WHO,. Tedros Ghebreyesus with UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres   (© KEYSTONE / SALVATORE DI NOLFI)

COVID-19: Africa could end up suffering the most

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling for urgent and increased measures that will better prepare Africa for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The UN says Africa “could end up suffering the greatest impacts.”

English Africa Service - Vatican City.

The UN chief made the remarks in a video conference with African ambassadors to the United Nations in New York on Wednesday.

Bracing for the spread of the coronavirus in Africa

Guterres said that COVID-19 is in no way of Africa’s making, but Africa could end up suffering the most.

“All efforts must be aimed at the common enemy, as we brace for the expected spread of the pandemic in Africa.  This is in no way of Africa’s making.  But, as with the climate crisis, the African continent could end up suffering the greatest impacts,” said the UN chief.

Preparing citizens for the virus’ economic impact.

Guterres said the United Nations and African countries are already cooperating and working together in combatting the pandemic. The UN chief praised countries that had already taken initiatives to cushion the impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s poor populations such as those in rural areas or those who work in the informal sector.

“In these trying times, I would like to commend you for the early leadership and action taken by your Governments to do just this:  to suppress transmission and control the spread of COVID-19; and to prepare your people and the economy against its impacts.  The examples are many:  Uganda is supporting businesses by rescheduling social security contributions; Namibia is offering emergency income grants to workers who have lost jobs; Cabo Verde is offering cash transfers and food assistance; Egypt has reduced taxation for industries and postponed taxation on agricultural land, and has expanded its social safety net programme.  It is clear that those efforts have drawn on the painful yet useful lessons from the outbreak of Ebola,” said Guterres.

The work of WHO in Africa

The UN chief also highlighted some of the work of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Africa.

“WHO has been supporting Governments with early detection. While at the start of the outbreak, only two countries could test for COVID-19, 47 African countries can now do so. WHO is also providing remote support to national health authorities on the use of data, and helping local authorities ensure that the public is fully informed,” Guterres told the African diplomats.

16 April 2020, 11:06