UN secretary-general predicts 'historic' hunger in post-coronavirus world

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United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned Thursday that the world is facing extreme crisis due to the coronavirus, despite scientific and technological advances.

“Unless we act now, the COVID-19 pandemic will cause unimaginable devastation and suffering around the world,” Guterres said.

Speaking from a finance forum in New York, he outlined global vulnerabilities triggered by the pandemic.

“Huger and famine of historic proportions, 60 million more people pushed into extreme poverty, up to half the global workforce, 1.6 billion people, without livelihoods, a loss of $8.5 trillion in global output — the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s: We must avoid it.”

The World Health Organization has noted nearly 5.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases globally and the death count has surpassed 350,000. Restrictions set up around the globe have forced people to social distance and remain home, causing massive economic shutdowns.

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The International Labour Organization, a U.N. agency, also has reported that “one in six young people have stopped working since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This is where the health crisis meets the economic crisis, in a dangerous nexus that could prolong and deepen both,” Guterres said. “Existing mechanisms are stretched to capacity, and the resources of the International Monetary Fund may not be enough.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have facilitated disaster-relief funds and operations in more than 100 countries, providing economic aid to nearly 70 percent of the world.

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The IMF has doubled the access to its emergency facilities which has enabled over $100 billion in financial assistance to be accessible worldwide.

The secretary-general also said that in order to overcome the challenges that the coronavirus has exacerbated, addressing climate change, poverty and discrimination all deserve attension.

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“Getting through COVID-19 and recovering better will cost money,” Guterres said. “But, the alternative will cost far more.”