The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Kate Zeller, Campaigns Director / (o) (202) 783-3566 x105 / (m) (503) 936-7553

United Nations Warns of Famine, Urges Debt Relief and Calls for New Debt Process to Confront Coronavirus


Over the last 48 hours, United Nations agencies warned the coronavirus could spread famine to hundreds of millions, called for new debt relief processes and the UN's chief urged expanding debt relief and aid to more countries.

"Without debt relief and emergency aid, too many countries do not have the ability to feed their people, strengthen health services or help their people survive the economic impacts of the coronavirus," stated Eric LeCompte, a UN finance expert, who leads the religious development group, Jubilee USA Network.

On Thursday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for expanded debt relief and aid for broader groups of developing countries to confront the coronavirus pandemic. Guterres spoke to the virtual meetings of the UN Financing for Development Forum and he specifically noted the plight of Middle Income Countries.

His remarks come as the UN World Food Programme released analysis this week, that the impacts of COVID-19 could spread famine to 265 million people.

"Almost all of the countries that face increased numbers of people suffering from famine are poor countries with debts that cannot be paid," said LeCompte. "Not only do these countries need debt relief, they also need emergency aid so people don't starve to death."

The UN Conference on Trade and Development also released Thursday a template for a new process, the International Developing Country Debt Authority, to create a mechanism to negotiate the debt of countries facing crisis.

"The efforts of the United Nations are critical now to immediately expand aid and debt relief to more countries in the face of this unprecedented global health and economic crisis."

Last Friday, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank noted that increased resources and debt relief would be needed as the coronavirus economic crisis deepens.

Read the UN Secretary General's Remarks here

Read Jubilee USA's April 1st letter to the IMF on reserve gold funds here

Read Jubilee USA's March 23rd letter to IMF on a health and economic COVID-19 response plan here

Read about the Major Religious Institutions Letter to the President, IMF and G20 to Cancel Debts and Use Reserves to Protect Poor here

Jubilee USA Network is an interfaith, non-profit alliance of religious, development and advocacy organizations. We are 75 U.S. institutions and more than 750 faith groups working across the United States and around the globe. We address the structural causes of poverty and inequality in our communities and countries around the world.

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