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U.N. triples coronavirus aid appeal to help most vulnerable countries

Palestinian health workers wear protective facemasks in the courtyard of a United Nations agency school to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus at the Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza on March 18. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
Palestinian health workers wear protective facemasks in the courtyard of a United Nations agency school to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus at the Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza on March 18. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

May 7 (UPI) -- The United Nations more than tripled its humanitarian aid appeal on Thursday from $2 billion to $6.7 billion to accommodate its updated global plan to help the poorest nations fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Mark Lowcock, the U.N.'s humanitarian chief, made the increased appeal alongside announcing nine additional vulnerable countries have been included in the Global Humanitarian Response Plan introduced by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in March.

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Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe have been included in the updated plane, Lowcock said, as have programs to respond to the growth in food insecurity.

The coronavirus pandemic has infected nearly 3.8 million people worldwide, killing more than 260,000 of them, according to a tracker of the virus by Johns Hopkins University.

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While some of the countries first hit hard by the virus are now planning to reopen their economies, Lowcock said the world's poorest nations are not expected to see the peak of their outbreaks until sometime in the next six months.

In those countries, he said, incomes are plummeting, food supplies are dwindling and children are going without meals and needed vaccinations.

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"The COVID-19 pandemic is hurting us all," he said in a statement. "But the most devastating and destabilizing effects will be felt in the world's poorest countries. In the poorest countries, we can already see economies contracting as export earnings, remittances and tourism disappear. Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty."

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"The specter of multiple famines looms," he said.

The Global Humanitarian Response Plan, introduced by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in March, is the United Nations' primary fundraising tool to help the poorest countries respond to the humanitarian impacts caused by the coronavirus as well as prevent the virus from further spreading.

The plan includes protections for those deemed the most vulnerable to the virus, including the elderly, children, women and people with disabilities, among others.

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However, since it was launched only $1 billion has been raised, the United Nations said.

That money has funded the installation of handwashing facilities in places such as refugee camps, created new transport hubs from which supplies can be transported by air and trained more than 1.7 million people in virus identification and protection measures through the World Health Organization's online training portal.

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According to the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the cost of protecting the world's most vulnerable 10 percent from the worst impacts of the pandemic is approximately $90 billion.

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"The needs are vast, but not insurmountable, and only collective action to curb the threat of the coronavirus can save lives," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement. "Timely, generous and flexible response from all our supporters is critical."

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