Christian international aid agency World Vision has started a £64m plan to help millions of the world's most vulnerable people defeat coronavirus.
The children's charity aims to reach at least 22.5 million people, over half of them children, with life-saving help. The strategy will focus on 17 priority countries where the need is greatest, including Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
World Vision ihas warned that the death toll for coronavirus could spiral in the developing world. It said weak health systems and higher rates of other diseases, such as HIV, mean the disaster could prove more deadly than in wealthier countries.
Isabel Gomes, World Vision's global director of humanitarian operations, said "Coronavirus is having a devastating impact on people living all over the world, but it could be catastrophic for families living in war-torn and poverty-stricken countries. Those living in places with poor medical facilities, and where children are already at risk of things like malnutrition and exploitation, will pay the highest price in this crisis."
Last week World Vision warned that 30 million children's lives are at risk in the world's poorest countries as a result of the secondary impacts of the virus.
Tom Davis, World Vision's global head of health and nutrition, said: "We are getting to an inflection point in a number of countries around the globe and expect to see cases mushroom over the next few weeks.
"We need to help countries with weak health systems prepare as best they can and while they can for this tsunami of COVID-19 cases that will simultaneously hit multiple regions of the world. There's no reason that we cannot both prepare high-income and lower-income countries."
World Vision is reallocating £38 million of its development budget to respond to coronavirus. It said government grants are expected to cover the majority of the £42 million funding gap.
It has also called on the UK government to do the following:
- Ensure the Department for International Development prioritises the most vulnerable, making sure funding reaches those most in need: refugees, those living in conflict zones, in extreme poverty, and in other places with weak health and protection systems.
- Ensure the UK's global response to COVID-19 does not come at the expense of cuts to crucial programming to eradicate poverty and protect vulnerable children. Existing work on the Sustainable Development Goals must not fall through the cracks.
- Ensure the UK's global response is conducted in a way that doesn't do any harm, include a commitment to building peace and get humanitarian aid to those who need it most.
World Vision is working alongside the UN and governments around the world to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
The charity's frontline workers are promoting preventative measures like handwashing, supporting health systems and workers, and providing support to children with increased vulnerability as a result of the virus.