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World Health Assembly Wrestles with Coronavirus

As the global coronavirus death toll tops 300,000 people, the leaders of the World Health Organization (WHO) prepare to hold their leadership meetings virtually from May 18th - 19th.
As the global coronavirus death toll tops 300,000 people, the leaders of the World Health Organization (WHO) prepare to hold their leadership meetings virtually from May 18th - 19th.

"As world leaders gather, it is crucial that they ensure there are no trade barriers for any country to receive life-saving medicines and medical equipment as the coronavirus spreads," noted Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte who serves on United Nations finance expert groups. "During these meetings, we must send a message that debts need to be cut and aid must move quickly to developing countries as they confront the virus."

Ahead of the WHO's World Health Assembly meetings, Jubilee USA organized a letter to the G20, IMF and White House urging debt relief and resources to fund health services in the developing world. The letter further calls for policies to improve the arbitration of debt and enacting transparency and tax agreements so countries can emerge with "more resilience."

The 120 signers include: All Africa Council of Churches, The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Jubilee USA Network, American Friends Service Committee, Church World Service, American Jewish World Service, Buddhist Association of the United States, the largest groupings of Quakers and representing US Reformed Jews, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. More than 100 Catholic congregations, synagogues, churches and muslim groups from Virginia to Montana to Nebraska to Oregon joined the letter. The largest labor union in the United States, the AFL-CIO, and Oxfam joined the letter. In conjunction with Jubilee USA, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pope Francis and 165 world leaders, pressed these issues too.

The United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called for expanded debt relief and aid for broader groups of developing countries to confront the coronavirus pandemic. The UN Conference on Trade and Development called for a trillion dollars of debt to be eliminated so countries can get through the crisis. The IMF and G20 issued recent plans to offer 6 months of debt cancellation for the poorest countries and debt payment suspensions for 2020.

"The G20 and IMF must do more so we can all survive the economic and health impacts of this crisis," said LeCompte. "People are dying because of this virus and people are starving because of this crisis."