The Secretary-General of the United Nations has warned the world. Seventy-five years after the entity was founded, it faces the most challenging crisis since the Second World War. Wednesday’s exceptionally robust caveat by Mr Antonio Guterres reaffirms that the coronavirus pandemic has, in a span of three months, surpassed the persecution of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas, an instance of man’s inhumanity to man and one that was rated by the UN as the worst humanitarian crisis since the War.
Covid-19 has changed that perception. To buttress the impact of the crisis that has shaken the world, the UN chief has drawn a fine distinction between a health crisis and a “human crisis”. The coronavirus crisis is “attacking societies at the core”. In the month of March alone, the affliction and its economic impact have yielded a devastating cocktail.
Mr Guterres’ fears that the combination of the two “will contribute to enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict” are chillingly valid. Beyond the effusion of rhetoric, the contents of the report on the socioeconomic impact of Covid-19 are much too frightful even to imagine. In a very real sense, social history is being choreographed from Delhi’s Nizamuddin to New York’s Manhattan ~ to mention but two hotspots ~ and further afield.
The crux of the issue, to summon the words of Mr Guterres, is that “we are facing a global health crisis unlike any other in the 75-year history of the United Nations. One that is killing people, spreading human suffering, and upending people’s lives.” So when the Secretary-General shrills for a “stronger and more effective global response to the pandemic and to the social and economic devastation”, he implicitly hints that the concerted efforts of the world have been less than curative, let alone adequate.
The planet is suffering and the most powerful countries have been brought to their knees; it is only the degree of suffering that spells the difference. “The magnitude of the response must match the scale of the crisis large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive, with country and international responses being guided by the World Health Organization. We are still very far from where we need to be to effectively fight the virus and its impacts worldwide”.
A lockdown alone may not be able to stem the tide. He has emitted the signal that we are still very far from where we need to be to effectively fight the virus and its impact worldwide. No less alarming must be the disclosure that many countries are not respecting WHO guidelines, and that while $5 trillion has been mobilised, most of that money was from and for the developed world, including $2 trillion in the United States to support its own economy.
The punchline of his presentation conveys a resounding message to the echo chambers of the world ~ “Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world”. It is imperative, therefore, for the developed bloc to immediately assist the less developed. Any further punditry on growth and development ought now to be kept in abeyance.