UNICEF more than doubles coronavirus appeal to $1.6 billion


  • World
  • Tuesday, 12 May 2020

A Syrian refugee student takes part in a washing hands activity as part of an awareness campaign about coronavirus initiated by OXFAM and UNICEF at Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, March 11, 2020. REUTERS/ Muhammad Hamed

NEW YORK (Reuters) - United Nations children's agency UNICEF appealed on Monday for $1.6 billion (£1.3 billion), more than doubling its initial request for money two months ago to help children already suffering through humanitarian crises and now hit with the coronavirus pandemic.

UNICEF said it has so far received $215 million since late March.

The new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, has infected some 4.1 million people globally and more than 282,000 have died, according to a Reuters tally. The virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

"We have seen what the pandemic is doing to countries with developed health systems and we are concerned about what it would do to countries with weaker systems and fewer available resources," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

UNICEF is focussing its pandemic response on countries with existing humanitarian crises by working to prevent transmission and lessen the impact of the coronavirus on access to health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and protection.

"The pandemic is a health crisis which is quickly becoming a child rights crisis," Fore said. "These funds will help us respond to the crisis, recover from its aftermath, and protect children from its knock-on effects."

A UNICEF analysis found that some 77 per cent of children, or 1.8 billion, are living in one of the 132 countries with some form of movement restrictions in place.

The United Nations last week more than tripled its appeal to help vulnerable countries combat the spread and destabilizing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, asking for $6.7 billion to help 63 states mainly in Africa and Latin America.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has raised concerns about inadequate support for poor countries and lamented a lack of leadership by world powers and a divided international community in the fight against the coronavirus.

Despite more than six weeks of negotiations the 15-member U.N. Security Council has been unable to agree on a draft resolution that ultimately aims to back a March 23 call by Guterres for a ceasefire in global conflicts so the world can focus on the pandemic.

Talks have been stymied by a stand-off between China and the United States over whether to mention the World Health Organization. The United States does not want a reference, China has insisted it be included, while some other members see the mention - or not - of WHO as a marginal issue, diplomats said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)

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