Global organization Oxfam has called for an emergency response package of nearly $160 billion to help poor countries take action and prevent millions of deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Billions of people living in developing countries lack access to clean water and adequate health care, and live in slums or refugee camps where social distancing is near impossible, leaving them especially vulnerable to this pandemic, Oxfam noted.
"In Mali there are three ventilators per million people. In Zambia, 1 doctor for 10,000 people," Jose Maria Vera, Oxfam International interim executive director, said in a press release.
"Without urgent, ambitious, and historic action, we could easily see the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II," he added.
Oxfam’s Global Public Health Plan and Emergency Response plan calls for free health care, 10 million new paid and protected health care workers, and free and rapidly available vaccines and treatments, when ready. The plan also calls on governments to ensure that all health care facilities are working towards fighting the virus and meeting essential health needs. Finally, Oxfam's plan advocates for major investments in disease prevention, such as ensuring access to clean water and sanitation.
Oxfam calculated that it would cost $159.5 billion to double the health care spending of the world’s poorest 85 countries, which are home to 3.7 billion people. This money can be provided through direct aid, or through an immediate moratorium on countries’ debt interest payments, which would free up approximately $44 billion in Africa alone for public health spending, Oxfam said.
Worldwide, there have been more than 719,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 33,673 confirmed deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The United States currently has the highest number of confirmed cases, followed by Italy, Spain, and China.