Debt relief for the poorest countries is essential in the fight against COVID-19

NEW YORK, April 7, 2020 – “COVID-19 is generating an unprecedented global economic crisis. And as we see in all of these crises, this economic destruction is cruelly and unevenly distributed.

“For the world’s poorest countries, the financial fallout caused by the pandemic, combined with debilitating debt service obligations, hamper their ability to prevent further transmission and protect citizens.

“And for families in these countries, with widespread loss of income and limited access to food in environments where social distancing is impossible, soap and water for washing hands a luxury and quality health non-existent, the situation is already dire, and it will only get worse.

“If children are largely spared the immediate health consequences of the pandemic, they will suffer the economic destruction that follows. More than 200 million children live in countries with debt distress and countries at high risk of debt distress. The debt burden forces countries to fight to prevent the transmission of disease.

“Low-income countries in particular are forced to dramatically increase their spending to respond to the health emergency, while strengthening – or, in some cases, creating – social protection systems that include unconditional cash transfers, income for those who lose their jobs. and job security.

“The additional expenditure required must not come at the expense of other essential services for children, such as routine immunization, maternity care and child protection. At this crucial time, countries must spend more to protect the future of their children.

“To reduce disease transmission and avert further economic disasters, UNICEF wholeheartedly joins the President of the World Bank and the Managing Director of the IMF in their call for debt relief and restructuring of the the debt of countries in need. ”

As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres noted in his recent letter to the G20, debt restructuring is a priority – including immediate waivers of interest payments for 2020. By easing the burden of debt financing, countries are more likely to show the flexibility and aggressive response needed to reduce the impact of the economic crisis and stop COVID-19 in its tracks.

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