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COVID-19: UN chief says women, central to response



António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, on Wednesday said that women would be central to every aspect of the pandemic response.


According to him, stimulus packages must prioritise putting cash in the hands of women and increasing social protection.


Guterres made this known in a statement during the launch of the UN Policy Brief on the impact of COVID-19 on Africa.


He said in the statement that,  “As  COVID-19 spreads across the continent, Africa has responded swiftly to the pandemic, and as of now, reported cases are lower than feared.


“In recent years,  Africans have done much to advance the well-being of the continent’s people.  


“Economic growth has been strong, the digital revolution has taken hold and a free trade area has been agreed.”


Guterres said that the policy brief being issued highlights a spectrum of urgent challenges.


“We are calling for international action to strengthen Africa’s health systems, maintain food supplies, avoid a financial crisis, support education, protect jobs, keep households and businesses afloat.


“African countries should also have quick, equal and affordable access to any eventual vaccine and treatment, that must be considered global public goods.”


He, however, said that the pandemic had  threatened  Africa’s progress, and would  aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease.


 He added  that the demand for Africa’s commodities, tourism and remittances were already declining and even the opening of the trade zone had been pushed back.


“Most African countries have moved rapidly to deepen regional coordination, deploy health workers, and enforce quarantines, lockdowns and border closures.


“I commend what has been done already, together with the African Union,” he said.


He also said that African youths should be empowered and the human rights of all, respected.


“Many difficult decisions will need to be taken as the pandemic unfolds, and it will be essential to retain the trust and participation of citizens throughout.


“These are still early days for the pandemic in Africa, and disruption can escalate quickly.


“Global solidarity with Africa is an imperative – now and for recovering better,” Guterres said.


Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Peter Dada (NAN)