FILE PHOTO: U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres makes a statement at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S.,…
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres makes a statement at UN headquarters in New York City, Sept. 23, 2019.

NEW YORK - The United Nations is establishing a trust fund to support low- and middle-income countries in responding to the coronavirus pandemic and recovering from its socio-economic shock. 

“It is a call to action,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told journalists Tuesday during the virtual launch of the plan and his “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity” report.   

The secretary-general said the pandemic is the greatest test the world has faced since the formation of the United Nations 75 years ago. He is calling for a large-scale, coordinated, multilateral response amounting to at least 10% of global GDP.   

There are more than 820,000 confirmed cases worldwide of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and at least 40,000 deaths. The virus has been reported in 179 countries and many of them lack the adequate financial and health resources to contain it.  

“This is not a financial crisis; this is a human crisis,” Guterres said. “We need to support directly those that lose their jobs, those that lose their salaries, the small companies that cannot operate anymore, all those that are the fabrics of our societies, and we need to make sure that we keep thousands afloat, we keep small companies afloat, we keep all societies afloat.” 

The U.N. chief expressed particular concern about the African continent and welcomed the suggestion of a G20 initiative on Africa.  

“I fully support that idea, but, again, we must act quickly to make it happen,” he said. “If not, the African continent will have enormous difficulties in facing this challenge.” 

The Central African Republic is one of those countries.  

On Tuesday, the Norwegian Refugee Council said the country of nearly 5 million has just three ventilators. There are already six confirmed coronavirus cases, with more likely as there is not widespread testing.   

The U.N. chief said resources for developing nations must be dramatically increased. He proposed the issuance of special drawing rights at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and granting debt relief, including immediate waivers on interest payments for 2020. 

The IMF has revised its forecast for global growth for 2020 and 2021, declaring a global recession that is likely to be as bad or even worse than the 2009 downturn. 

Last week, the U.N. also issued a $2 billion humanitarian appeal for 40 countries badly hit by the coronavirus.

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