Weakest, Most Fragile States Will Be Those Worst Affected by COVID-19 in Medium, Long Term, Humanitarian Chief Tells Security Council

COVID-19 Impacts – Fragile States

Weakest, Most Fragile States Will Be Those Worst Affected by COVID-19 in Medium, Long Term, Humanitarian Chief Tells Security Council
9 September 2020 SC/14296
Top peacekeeping and humanitarian affairs officials warned the Security Council during a 9 September videoconference meeting* that wide-ranging implications of the COVID-19 pandemic could erode peace and push more conflict affected nations onto its agenda.

Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefing the Council on the implementation of resolution 2532 (2020) that called for a global ceasefire amid the pandemic, said the weakest, most fragile and conflict-affected countries will be those worst affected by COVID-19 in the medium and long term. “Woefully inadequate economic and political action will lead to greater instability and conflicts in the coming years; more crises will be on this Council’s agenda,” he said. “While we may have been surprised by the virus, we cannot say the same of the security and humanitarian crises that most certainly lay ahead if we don’t change course.”

With more than 26 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, he said “the virus is everywhere”. More than 860,000 people have died, roughly a third of these cases and fatalities in countries affected by humanitarian or refugee crises, or those facing high levels of vulnerability. Indirect effects of the crisis will be higher poverty, lower life expectancy, more starvation, less education and more child death. Likewise, given recent research findings, the risks of conflict, instability, insecurity, violence and population displacement are rising, he said, adding that “the agenda of this Council, which you may think is big enough already, is set to grow; that may be one of the main lasting effects of the pandemic.”

In addition, these indirect consequences “are dwarfing the impact of the virus itself”, he cautioned. Vaccination campaigns have been disrupted in 45 countries facing humanitarian or refugee crises or high levels of vulnerability from other causes, putting more than 80 million children under the age of one at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report that food insecurity is spiking, with 27 countries at risk. More than half a billion children in humanitarian crises and fragile contexts have been affected by school closures, many girls now unable to go to school will never go back and gender-based violence is increasing as services have been curtailed.

“There is little dispute about what ought to be done,” he said. While the Group of 20 and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations have adopted $10 trillion in domestic stimulus measures to protect their populations, low-income and fragile countries do not have the resources. They rely on support from elsewhere, but only 7 per cent of the $143 billion in financing from the international financial institutions has been committed to low income countries. This alarmingly low level of support increases the likelihood of the pandemic generating dangerous long-term consequences, he said, underlining the critical role international financial institutions can play. Indeed, recent experience has shown that costs to taxpayers are minimal because the resources can largely be generated off the international financial institutions’ own balance sheets.

Turning to the response of humanitarian agencies, he said the Secretary General’s launch in March of the United Nations coordinated Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 now seeks $10 billion over the next six months to support 250 million people in 63 countries. Expressing appreciation at having raised around $2.4 billion since March, he outlined some ongoing efforts, including personal protective equipment for 730,000 health workers, information on the virus and protection instructions for more than 1 billion people in nearly 60 countries and distance learning for almost 100 million children. However, the Secretary-General’s repeated calls on Member States and others to facilitate the movement of humanitarian personnel and cargo have not been adequately heeded, violence against health workers is rising and aid workers are also vulnerable to the virus. The number of confirmed cases among United Nations staff alone runs into the thousands, and the death toll is mounting. Where possible, those who are most sick are evacuated to places where they can get good medical care, but, too often, that does not happen, he said, paying tribute to those taking extraordinary risks with their own welfare in the desire to help others…