Coronavirus: Pakistan’s Imran Khan calls on world to help developing countries struck by outbreak

The Pakistani premier said many debt-ridden developing nations did not have the resources to bolster their health services

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a joint news conference with Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (not pictured) in Putrajaya, Malaysia, February 4, 2020. Reuters
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a joint news conference with Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (not pictured) in Putrajaya, Malaysia, February 4, 2020. Reuters

Indebted developing countries are caught between lockdowns to stop the spread of coronavirus and seeing their poor die of hunger, Pakistan’s prime minister said as he called for debt relief.

Imran Khan said many debt-ridden developing nations such as Pakistan did not have resources to bolster their health services in the face of Covid-19.

He said he would appeal to world leaders, the heads of financial institutions and the United Nations to give debt relief.

Pakistan has shut down much of its economy since March 24 and launched a US$7.2-billion (Dh26.44bn) protection and stimulus package, but many of the country’s poor have been left destitute without their daily wages.

A total of 5,230 cases and 92 deaths had been logged in the 220-million-strong nation by yesterday. A lack of testing means the true toll is likely to be far higher.

Mr Khan said there was a clear divide emerging between what developed and undeveloped countries could do to tackle the pandemic.

“While in the developed world, the main dilemma is containing the coronavirus through lockdown and then dealing with the economic impact, in the developing world, apart from containing the virus and dealing with the economic crisis, our biggest worry now is people dying of hunger,” he said in a video message.

Pakistan was already in economic trouble before the new coronavirus swept the world and last year received a $6bn bailout from the International Monetary Fund to try to reverse a balance of payments crisis.

The World Bank said on Sunday that the South Asia region, including Pakistan and India, was now likely to see its worst economic growth in four decades.

Growth for the eight countries in the region is now predicted to be about 1.8 to 2.8 per cent, down from 6.3 per cent predicted only six months ago. Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Maldives are expected to fall into recession, the bank said.

Updated: April 13, 2020 06:11 PM

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