THE international community should extend its maximum support to the United Nations’ endeavour to raise money for helping the world’s poor reeling from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 health crisis. A UN appeal to the world on Tuesday pointed out that the plague had increased the number of vulnerable people on the planet by around 40pc to a record 235m as governments were forced to shut down their economies to stop the spread of infection. The world body will require $35bn to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to the vulnerable in 2021, particularly in the developing countries. It also lists 160m people in 56 countries as being the most vulnerable with the economic stress of the pandemic forcing one in 33 people to seek emergency relief, up from one in 45 in 2020. There are valid fears that the number of poor and vulnerable people will continue to surge as the pandemic wipes out employment, fuels inflation and causes food insecurity going forward, even as governments get ready to approve new vaccines and green-light their mass production. Meanwhile, multiple famines are looming, the UN emergency chief said, adding that the situation was desperate for millions and had left the UN and its partners overwhelmed.

The UN will target about 3.3m as the most vulnerable and fragile segment in Pakistan, with 10.5m people requiring $285.3m for emergency relief, prevention and mitigation measures. Poverty is likely to surge rapidly from 24.3pc to 40pc as a series of unexpected shocks like locusts, the Covid-19 pandemic and drought have dealt a severe blow to livelihoods, small businesses and food security, and pushed the most vulnerable towards compounded crises, with little opportunity for recovery. Emergency measures like cash handouts for the poor have so far helped millions survive in the midst of the pandemic in cash-strapped countries such as Pakistan. But these nations can do only so much given their own meagre resources. It is time wealthier countries stepped forward and responded quickly and generously to the UN’s call.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2020

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