Coronavirus: UN releases $15m for vulnerable countries

WHO chief, Tedros Ghebrelyesus

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says UN has released 15 million dollars emergency funds to help vulnerable countries fight coronavirus (COVID-19)

The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, disclosed this on the agency’s twitter handle, @WHO.

Ghebreyesus said that the potential spread of COVID-19 to countries with weaker health system was one of the agency’s biggest concerns.

“WHO thanks UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock for releasing 15 million US dollars from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help fund global efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus.

“We thank the agency for releasing the fund to help weak countries battle the spread of the virus,’’ he said.

WHO is calling for 675 million dollars to fund the fight against coronavirus.

The UN announced on Sunday that WHO and UNICEF will use the funds to undertake essential activities such as monitoring the spread of the virus, investigating cases and operating national laboratories.

In a statement released by Lowcock, he said that it was not too late to contain COVID-19.

“We do not yet see evidence that the virus is spreading freely. As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing it.’’

However, “swift and robust action must be taken to detect cases early”, he added, to “isolate and care for patients, and trace contacts. We must act now to stop this virus from putting more lives at risk”.

The emergency grant will support countries with fragile health systems to boost their detection and response efforts and, says Mr Lowcock, it “has the potential to save the lives of millions of vulnerable people”.

UNICEF will use its share of the funds to support the agency’s global efforts to inform children, pregnant women and families about how to protect themselves, agency chief Henrietta Fore said.

“At this pivotal moment”, she said, “every effort must be made to push back against the outbreak”.

Five new countries; Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Ireland, Monaco and Qatar have reported cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of affected countries to 58.

Globally, there were 1,739 new confirmed cases during the 24-hour reporting period between Saturday and Sunday.

Following a period of decline, the number of confirmed cases in Hubei Province, the epicentre of the virus, has risen over the last two days.

WHO announced that it is monitoring the situation and working to understand its significance.