UN calls on Arab world to show more support against pandemic

By: AFP      Published: 09:16 PM, 23 Jul, 2020
UN calls on Arab world to show more support against pandemic

Faced with deep and lasting consequences from the coronavirus pandemic, Arab countries must show more mutual support through aid, for example by creating "regional solidarity funds," the UN said Thursday.

"The Arab region, home to 436 million people, initially kept transmission and mortality rates lower than the global average but more recent trends are cause for concern," said a UN document, which details COVID-19's impact on the region, as well as the body's recommendations.

The pandemic's consequences are likely to be deep and spread out over time, the text noted, forecasting a contraction of the region's economy by at least 5.7 percent.

"Solidarity is a core element in resolving and mitigating the impact of COVID," Rola Dashti, executive secretary of the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) told reporters.

That solidarity, she said, must be expressed within countries themselves and also between Arab nations.

"Providing economic and social support for individuals and households is key, and establishing regional solidarity funds," the document said.

It added that countries must "reduce inequalities by investing in universal health and education, social protection and technology."

In a statement accompanying the document, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted that "the region is home to the world's largest gender gap in human development."

"COVID-19 recovery is an opportunity to invest in women and girls, ensure equal rights and participation — which will have lasting benefits for all," he added.

According to Dashti, poverty is likely to intensify in the Arab world: "One of four Arabs may end up living in poverty," she said.

She noted that the coronavirus pandemic threatens 55 million people in need of life-saving aid, 26 million of whom are forcibly displaced refugees and internally displaced persons. Of those, 16 million are food insecure.

Positive steps taken by countries in the region in fighting the pandemic include support for informal trade in Egypt and payment extensions granted by some countries' banking sectors, she said.

In his statement Guterres called on Arab countries to reimagine "the region's economic model in favor of more diversified, green economies."