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Remarks by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock: Release of the Updated COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan

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Thank you Melissa. Welcome everyone.

COVID-19 has now affected every country and almost every person on the planet.

But the most devastating and destabilizing impacts will be felt in the world’s poorest countries.

They face a double whammy. First, the direct health impact, with the first peak of the disease expected in many in the next 3 to 6 months.

Second, the impact of the global recession and the domestic measures taken to contain the virus.

We can right now see incomes plummeting and jobs disappearing, food supplies falling and prices soaring, children missing vaccinations, meals and school.

We must be prepared for a rise in conflict, hunger, poverty and disease as economies contract, export earnings, remittances and tourism disappear, and health systems are put under strain.

Lockdowns and economic recession may mean a hunger pandemic ahead for millions.

In many places the impact of national measures to contain the spread of the virus and the global recession may be larger than the direct impact of the disease.

We must fight the disease, but in the poorest countries it won’t be the only battle we face. A coronavirus vaccine is essential, but it will not save a child starving to death.

If we do not act swiftly, we face a reversal of the development gains we have made over several decades.

Based on our analysis, the cost of protecting the most vulnerable 10 percent of people in the world from the worst impacts is approximately $90 billion.

That might sound like a lot. But it is equivalent to just 1 percent of the global stimulus package the world’s richest countries have put in place to save the global economy.

To meet these costs, wealthy countries will need to make significant one-off increases in their foreign aid commitments. And international financial institutions will need to change lending agreements with vulnerable countries.

The alternative is dealing with the spill-over effects over many years to come. That would prove even more painful, and much more expensive. For everyone.

This cannot be business as usual. Extraordinary measures are needed, reflecting the extraordinary problem we face.

The humanitarian system is collaborating in a concerted effort to respond to the humanitarian impacts of the virus on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

On 25 March we published the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan. This is the international community’s primary fundraising vehicle to fight the virus in the most vulnerable low and middle income countries. It brings together appeals from across the UN system. Nongovernmental organizations and NGO consortiums are key partners in delivering it. They have been instrumental in helping shape the plan and they will be funded through it.

Humanitarian needs continue to rise. Today’s updated Plan has been costed at $6.7 billion for the remainder of 2020. It includes nine additional vulnerable countries, beyond the fifty-four covered in the 25 March version. More countries are on a watch list for possible future inclusion.

Today’s update includes a lot more programs to tackle the growth in food insecurity. It outlines measures to address the needs of the most vulnerable, including women and girls, children, the elderly, and people living with disabilities. Since the last GHRP, we have stepped up our efforts to prevent and address gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, and to offer support for mental health. Despite operational challenges, our UN and NGO partners on the ground are ready to fully implement this updated plan.

Donors have been fast and generous in their response, providing more than $1 billion so far. That generosity has already helped us achieve results. But it’s clear that much more is needed.

Some people may be sceptical that additional resources can be generated in the current circumstances. That is not our experience. After the financial crisis of 2008-09 fund raising for UN coordinated humanitarian appeals increased by more than 40% by 2010. A result of human generosity and empathy – but also a calculation of national interest in the donor countries.

I urge donors to act with empathy and self-interest today.

As the Secretary-General has said, this pandemic threatens the whole of humanity. The whole of humanity must respond.

Thank you.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.