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U.N.: Act now to stop famine tied to pandemic

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FILE- In this file photo taken Thursday, April 30, 2020, Women carrying their children lineup to receive vegetables from the Jan Hofmeyer community services in the Vrededorp neighborhood of Johannesburg. South Africa is struggling to balance its fight against the coronavirus with its dire need to resume economic activity. The country with the Africa's most developed economy also has its highest number of infections -- more than 19,000.
FILE- In this file photo taken Thursday, April 30, 2020, Women carrying their children lineup to receive vegetables from the Jan Hofmeyer community services in the Vrededorp neighborhood of Johannesburg. South Africa is struggling to balance its fight against the coronavirus with its dire need to resume economic activity. The country with the Africa's most developed economy also has its highest number of infections -- more than 19,000. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, file) Photo Gallery

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. chief on Thursday warned the largest gathering of world leaders since the coronavirus pandemic began that it will cause “unimaginable devastation and suffering around the world,” with historic levels of hunger and famine and up to 1.6 billion people unable to earn a living unless action is taken now.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also told the high-level meeting on measures to help low- and middle-income countries cope with fallout from the crisis that it could lead to “a loss of $8.5 trillion in global output — the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

He called for immediate collective action in six critical areas: enhancing global financial liquidity; providing debt relief; engaging private creditors; promoting external finance; plugging leaks in tax evasion, money laundering and corruption; and adopting a recovery that tackles inequalities, injustices and climate change.

Nearly 50 world leaders spoke by video at the event along with economic experts.

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