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SAAPE calls for rapid and united response from South Asian govts to fight COVID-19 crisis

By Our Correspondent
April 17, 2020

The South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) on Monday said that the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund should be utilised proportionally to provide support and assistance as per the need of any member state, and a regional mechanism should be formed to share and exchange knowledge, information and ideas on the status of the fight against the pandemic.

The SAAPE, a network of NGOs, mass-based organisations, academics, trade unions, community-based organisations from South Asian countries, said that the network was concerned about the great danger that the COVID-19 pandemic posed to South Asia.

“The pandemic has already made the lives of the people miserable and woeful. The world is entering into a new phase of history. The pandemic has exposed the ugly face of neo-liberalism, which has miserably failed to protect our lives. Hundreds of thousands have died, health workers in the front lines of this battle have been put at risk, as country after the country failed to provide adequate protective gear to their doctors, nurses and others.”

SAAPE, in a statement issued in their members from Karachi, said that the virus had the potential to cause grave damage to the poor and to the livelihoods of millions in the informal sector. “If we are unable to contain the spread of this virus, allowing it to spread to high-density areas, slums, working people neighbourhoods, refugee camps and other centres of vulnerability and poverty, South Asia will be left to face health, economic and social disasters on a scale never experienced before. The developed world is being over-run by the pandemic and their economies driven into recession.”

The network demanded of the governments in South Asian countries to utlitilise the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund proportionally to provide support and assistance as per the need of any member state.

Investing in basic services, particularly the health sector, to better prepare ourselves to combat challenges that we may face in the future. All the basic services should be provided by the governments ensuring its quality, sustainability and better preparedness for any looming danger.

"Similarly, ensuring universal social protection for all at the time of crisis is another important step that enables all the poor and vulnerable people to sustain at the time of crisis. Strengthen social protection and start thinking for a new vision of South Asia with all people have a universal minimum income," it demanded.

The South Asian governments should call for the cancellation of all external debts so that the resources can be concentrated to provide quality basic services to the people. India being the member of G20 must raise the agenda of debt cancellation at the G20 Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ virtual meeting, taking place next on April 15," it said.

SAAPE also called on all South Asian governments to reduce military and defence budgets by at least 10 per cent of the national expenditures every year. The health budgets should be increased to a minimum 10 per cent of the total national budget.