Launching its largest ever fundraising drive from an initial call for $2bn in March, the organisation warned that inaction could see Covid-19 infecting 640 million people and killing 1.67 million in the world’s poorest countries.
The UN said 265 million people could face starvation by the end of the year and highlighted figures that suggest 6,000 children could die every day from preventable causes because of both the direct and indirect impact of Covid-19.
More than 2 million preventable deaths could also occur, with the annual death toll from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria doubling, as healthcare and resources are diverted, it said.
The money will be used to support 63 low-income and fragile countries in handling the fallout from the pandemic. It will cover basic health services as well as food, water, sanitation and shelter.
Mark Lowcock, the UN’s under secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said the response of wealthy nations has so far been “grossly inadequate and dangerously short-sighted”.
“Failure to act now will leave the virus free to circle round the globe, undo decades of development and create a generation’s worth of tragic and exportable problems,” he said.
He added: “It doesn’t have to be like this – this is a problem that can be fixed with money from wealthy nations and fresh thinking from the shareholders of international financial institutions and supporters of UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and NGOs.
“Rich countries have thrown out the rulebook when it comes to protecting their own economies.
“They must apply the same exceptional measures to countries that need help.
“The prospect of cascading crises more brutal and destructive than anything the virus alone can do must jolt us all out of our comfort zone.”
There are now more than 13 million cases of Covid-19 and over 580,000 deaths worldwide.
Fears are growing over the impact of the virus in particularly vulnerable nations, including Syria – where the first case was confirmed last week in Idlib – and Yemen, where a quarter of the population has died – five times the global death rate.
Only $1.7bn has so far been raised since the UN launched the appeal in March.