- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A group of 34 vulnerable countries could see up to 1 billion coronavirus infections and 3.2 million deaths without proper action against the spread of the virus, an international aid group warned Tuesday.

New analysis by the International Rescue Committee suggests that countries with fragile infrastructure and existing humanitarian crises such as Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Venezuela, could be disproportionately hit by the virus unless a “robust response” is taken in the current early stages.

“These numbers should serve as a wake-up call,” said David Miliband, president and CEO of the IRC in a statement Tuesday.

“The full, devastating and disproportionate weight of this pandemic has yet to be felt in the world’s most fragile and war-torn countries.”

The IRC predicted there could be between 500 million and 1 billion infections, leading to between 1.7 to 3.2 million deaths from COVID-19 in these countries, based on potential response scenarios.

The group cautioned that even extreme social distancing measures that are being implemented around the world are “unsustainable” in the context of humanitarian efforts, and called for localized approaches to mitigate the virus’ spread.

The latest warning comes weeks after the Red Cross predicted that coronavirus outbreaks in Middle Eastern conflict zones could have a greater impact on millions of people in the region and fuel a socioeconomic upheaval and widespread unrest.

Days earlier, the global poverty fund Oxfam warned that the global economic impacts from the coronavirus outbreak could push up to a half a billion more people into poverty around the world.

They estimated that the financial implications from the coronavirus pandemic could set back the poverty fight by up to 30 years.

But Mr. Miliband said there is still time to prevent such devastation among fragile populations.

“We are still in the critical window of time to mount a robust preventative response to the early stages of COVID-19 in many of these countries and prevent a further perpetuation of this epidemic globally,” he said.

More than 3 million coronavirus cases have been reported globally, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

A total of 212,038 people have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and more than 906,000 have recovered.

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