The Reality of Aid Network expresses its deepest solidarity with all peoples from across the world braving the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The Network also expresses its heartfelt gratitude to all those in the frontlines, particularly workers and professionals in the health sector.

COVID-19, declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11th a pandemic, has now infected almost half a million and killed more than twenty thousand people worldwide. The global community continues to be at high risk. As measures are being implemented to avoid further spreading and to find relief and cure, we are called to strengthen our solidarity. As the global crisis unfolds, we must pay special attention to those who have been left behind and invest in the health and overall well-being of the ordinary people who underpin the global economy.

The pandemic is gravely affecting rich and poor countries alike – with the rich ones grappling with treating citizens who test COVID-19-positive, and the poor ones largely yet to identify carriers due to lack of testing kits and other necessary resources. As such, this is a time when more and effective aid and cooperation are needed, especially in the form of unconditional grants (not loans), technology transfer, and permanent debt relief for the recovery and long-term sustainable development of the poorest countries and the people – those who are being and will be most severely affected by COVID-19. Official Development Assistance (ODA) is a crucial contributor to the prevention and mitigation of infectious disease – as it is for many other public goods. We urge all providers to keep their ODA commitments, and partner country governments to make effective use of this ODA, paying urgent attention to health and medical research.[1] We also call on Southern providers to unleash the true spirit of South-South Cooperation and respond to more appeals[2] for resources, knowledge, and expertise needed for relief and long-term development.

All country governments must maximize their efforts to fulfill their duty of ensuring the right to health of their people. We call on governments to urgently coordinate and work with all stakeholders. With the support of donors’ emergency finance, they must provide all necessary funding for universal access to quality healthcare as well as research and development. We call for the creation of a solidarity fund to support poor countries’ efforts to fight COVID-19, observing transparency, effectiveness, and with direct allocation to hospitals, communities and civil society organizations. We also call for support for micro, small and medium enterprises so that they continue providing livelihoods and also help produce food, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other urgent needs.

Particular steps should be taken to protect impoverished, marginalized, and vulnerable members of society. Over the years, the Network has documented how policymakers have surrendered the development agenda and channeled scarce development resources to the corporate sector, resulting in privatized, inaccessible, expensive basic social services like healthcare and thus more vulnerable populations.[3] This must be reversed. The pandemic has recently led some countries to nationalize[4] all private hospitals, and we echo the increasing clamor[5] for all governments to do the same to ensure that no one is left behind. We also urge governments to ensure that other steps taken are appropriate, well-planned, and do not violate people’s rights. Governments must refrain from using the crisis to entrench authoritarianism or to intensify militaristic acts against the people. We are alarmed by indications that this is already happening in many countries.

In the medium-term, we call for a holistic approach to this pandemic and to health in general. We must leave no one behind, ensure that the needs of those farthest behind are fully met, and put people at the heart of development. For when they are neglected and afflicted, as in this pandemic, the global economy can come to a halt, and already, it is said to be in recession.[6] We call on all governments to reverse the corporate control of the health sector, increase government spending for people’s health, take on a preventive approach while providing adequate treatment to the ill, strongly link health to research and development, and strengthen cooperation with other countries as some governments have already done.[7] To ensure people’s overall health and well-being, governments must also ensure decent jobs, food security and quality education.

On the ground globally, people themselves are now responding, uniting, and mobilizing others – from sharing information and essential items, protecting vulnerable members of society, to improvising shelter and PPEs, among many others. We call on provider and partner country governments to support these examples of people-to-people cooperation, and ensure civil society’s involvement in all levels and all forms of development cooperation to fight COVID-19. Let us make solidarity more contagious and widespread than this virus; and take a people-centered approach to development from now on.

 

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[1] WHO 2019 https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/324835/9789241565707-eng.pdf Only 18 of 139 countries that received ODA for medical research and basic health sectors met their target for the percentage of such ODA allocated to medical research

[2] https://iboninternational.org/2020/03/24/call-for-support-an-urgent-appeal-to-the-cuban-govt-and-people-philippines-cuba-friendship-association/?fbclid=IwAR2mX-OGAHqFLMXXpZ5T5Ipue6XZM0LYjRB5AEIKw_a7v-GfsUGvNVQqYBc

[3] Case studies available in the RoA Report 2018 www.realityofaid.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Full-Version-RoA-Report-2018-min.pdf

[4] (a) https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-spain-nationalises-private-hospitals-emergency-covid-19-lockdown-2020-3; (b) https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/26/ireland-nationalizes-hospitals-duration-coronavirus

[5] https://www.salon.com/2020/03/27/covid-19-crisis-sparks-demand-for-us-to-nationalize-hospitals-_partner/

[6] https://www.nst.com.my/business/2020/03/576332/covid-19-global-economy-already-recession

[7] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/cubas-health-care-system-_b_5649968

 

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