The United Nations is requesting $2 billion from member countries in a plan to prevent the coronavirus from spreading within refugee camps, slums, and other vulnerable populations.
UN officials argue that, when it comes to infectious disease, helping the poor to avoid illness is beneficial to all.
“Covid-19 has already upended life in some of the world’s wealthiest countries,” Mark Lowcock, the UN coordinator for humanitarian relief, said in a statement on Wednesday. “It is now reaching places where people live in war zones, cannot easily access clean water and soap, and have no hope of a hospital bed if they fall critically ill.
“To leave the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries to their fate would be both cruel and unwise. If we leave coronavirus to spread freely in these places, we would be placing millions at high risk, whole regions will be tipped into chaos and the virus will have the opportunity to circle back around the globe.”
One prong of the plan is to install handwashing stations in refugee camps and settlements. The UN press office did not immediately return email and phone messages asking which countries and camps would be top priorities.
The plan will be coordinated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It brings together expertise from across the UN agencies, including UNICEF, World Health Organization, World Food Program, and more.