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Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock Remarks at Press Conference on US leadership and the COVID-19 pandemic, New York, 13 July 2020

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Porter thank you; Chairman Royce thank you very much.

Colleagues very pleased to be with you today.

Let me make three brief points.

Firstly, this is, as has been said, the biggest international crisis for 50 years really, and unfortunately what we’ve got is a grossly inadequate response, as has just been said, for the scale of the crisis.

What we see playing out in dozens of countries now is something much worse than a direct effect of the virus.
We see the effect of lockdown in creating dozens of countries at risk of severe food insecurity; 10 countries could fall into famine over the next six to nine months.

And dozens of countries have seen collapsing health services, which I’m sure Henrietta will speak to.

In 80 countries, kids are not getting their immunizations anymore.

And this is sowing the seeds of global tragedies which we will see - I promise you - over the next 9-12 months unless we act now.

We need to change dramatically the way that action is taken.

The good news is the worst outcomes are preventable. It’s my second point.

For just 90 billion dollars --that’s one per cent of the global stimulus the rich countries have wisely put in place to protect the global economy--the UN assesses we could protect the world’s poorest 700 million people from the worst outcomes. And most of that could be financed off the balance sheets of the International Financial Institutions. Some of it will need to be provided in the form of grant humanitarian aid through the brilliant NGOs, the Red Cross and some UN agencies led especially by UNICEF with Henrietta and Governor Beasley with the World Food Programme.

We will in two days’ time be publishing our next Response Plan to help the 50 most vulnerable countries with that essential lifesaving humanitarian assistance, and unfortunately, the bill is going to get bigger.

The problem is that thirdly, only the US has the capability and the leadership potential to convene the whole of the world behind an effective response.

I’ve been doing this kind of work for many decades now and I’ve seen repeatedly that when the world deals well with crises it’s because the US plays a leadership role.

We saw that on HIV/AIDS in the 80s and 90s.

We saw it in the global financial crisis in 2008/2009.

We saw it on Ebola in 2014, and we need to see the same thing now. Because if the US does play a leadership role, the rest of the world can be mobilized to follow.

So, thank you for the opportunity to join you, and I hope everybody will see this is not just a call for generosity, it’s also as has been said, something that’s in the national interest of all the better-off countries to deal with better.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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