New York, NY, December 3, 2020 — As the UN General Assembly kicks off its special COVID-19 session, the IRC urges member states to work together for clear, bold and inclusive commitment to beating the virus everywhere, including and especially crisis-affected countries. The IRC calls particularly on the international community to immediately heed the UN Secretary-General's call for a global ceasefire to allow COVID-19 health interventions to take hold even in the most conflict-affected of these states.
David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said, "This virus will not be beaten anywhere until it is beaten everywhere. This is why it is so critical that crisis-affected countries and populations are not left out of a global response to COVID-19. Crisis-affected countries, which are already dealing with unfathomable levels of hunger, economic distress, crippled health systems and infrastructure, are now facing second waves that could be even more devastating than the first. In places that the IRC works, like the Central African Republic and South Sudan, NGOs provide over 70% of health services. Even before COVID-19, 64 developing countries, including 18 where the IRC works, spent more on debt service than health. We simply cannot expect these countries to face these second waves and the indirect crises resulting from COVID-19 without clearer, bolder and more innovative commitment.
"With over 60 million global cases and counting, the demand for decisive and coordinated global action could not be clearer. Even so, while the U.S. and the rest of G20 and OECD countries allocated $11 trillion to domestic stimulus packages, only $3.45 billion was raised of the $9.5 billion for the Global Humanitarian Response Plan - when less than 1% of those domestic packages would suffice to protect the world's poorest 700 million from the worst impacts of the virus.
"With the promising news about a possible vaccine breakthrough, we must also not lose sight of the global picture that no solution will return us to normality --- not even a vaccine --- unless the response prioritizes the world's most vulnerable. This includes ensuring fair and equal distribution of a vaccine, prioritizing the most vulnerable, and ensuring frontline workers have access to vulnerable communities. We need to support international coordinating mechanisms, such as COVAX, to direct resources and vaccines where most needed. Humanitarian exceptions on travel and COVID-19 supplies could not be more vital: 93% of humanitarians reported early on in the pandemic that restrictions impacted life-saving operations.
"What's more, All UN member states should commit to the UN Secretary General's call for a global ceasefire to allow humanitarians to respond to COVID-19 and other urgent needs. In places like Syria, 50% of health facilities have been damaged or closed due to conflict. No response to the pandemic can take hold while bombs are still falling on civilians and hospitals alike.
"This special session is a moment to galvanize multilateral coordination to increase international financing and use it to support inclusive policies; ensure more funding goes directly to frontline NGOs already working in conflict-affected settings; secure exceptions to protect and expand humanitarian access, and lay the groundwork for a long-term response to the pandemic's devastating primary secondary impacts worldwide."