Buhari, at NAM Summit, Rallies Global Support against Pandemic

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Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday called for intensified global cooperation as the only way to arrest the devastating effect of COVID-19.

The president, while participating in a videoconferencing Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) organised by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Chairman of the NAM, Ilham Aliyev, called on international financial institutions to assist member-states in cushioning the impact of the pandemic.

According to him, such assistance could be by extending concessional loans, giving technical support as well as lowering of tariff on medical equipment and consumables.

He also listed other international measures to adopt in tackling the scourge to include: sharing of expertise in case management, adopting open trade policies and outright debt cancellation.

“Within the spirit of South-south cooperation, we must also assist one another, particularly the less developed and less endowed member states with technical, medical, and financial assistance.

“It is by so doing that we can rightly claim to uphold the Bandung Principles of equality, mutual interests, and cooperation,’’ Buhari said.

The president pledged Nigeria’s commitment to intensifying efforts in monitoring, testing and isolating more people, especially at the community level.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement, said the president noted that national, regional and global strategies were needed to combat the pandemic, which had ravaged humanity and devastated the well-being of people, livelihoods and global economy.

The president highlighted global efforts being made to contain the disease with a particular reference to the West African sub-region.

“The theme of this extra-ordinary Summit ‘United Against COVID-19 Pandemic,’ aptly reflects the importance for a proactive approach and the need for multilateral cooperation in finding quick solutions to the challenges that COVID-19 pandemic poses to our nations.

“Since the outbreak of the disease, countries have made concerted efforts to limit the spread of the pandemic within and outside their borders as well as treating those infected by the virus

“Two weeks ago, we in West Africa came together to work out a common sub-regional response to the crisis. The summit appointed me the champion to lead our efforts on fighting the pandemic in our region,’’ he said.

He explained that the international community was facing a daunting task and canvassed the intensification of efforts to reduce the impact of COVID-19.

He added that only the cooperation of the global community could conquer the virus.

While advocating the principle of collective responsibility in fighting the disease, Buhari stressed the need to empower medical experts and scientists to quickly find a vaccine to cure COVID-19.

“It is now clearly evident that no nation can independently and singlehandedly tackle a pandemic of this nature which is no respecter of borders, regions or status,” he said, adding: “Invariably, enhancing multilateral cooperation through exchange and sharing of best practices is imperative to overcome the disease. We must, therefore, form a united front against this common enemy by being coordinated and timely in our responses.”

He said nations must encourage and empower their scientists and medical experts to join the quest for a vaccine and cure to the universal plague.”

The president called for support and collaboration with the United Nations and World Health Organisation (WHO) in fighting the pandemic with machinery put in place to protect health workers.

“It is, therefore, essential to fully collaborate and support their initiatives in coordinating the international fight against the pandemic.

“Such efforts should include the protection of our medical workers, provision of medical supplies, especially test kits and ultimately, finding a vaccine to cure the disease,” he said.

According to the president, efforts are being made by Nigeria to control the spread of the virus in Nigeria and also reduce the economic effects.

He stated the efforts: “We have closed our land borders and airports and reduced seaport activities in a bid to curb imported cases from entering the country.

“Unfortunately, the number of confirmed cases continues to rise as a result of community transmission of the disease.

“Accordingly, we have increased our efforts to monitor trends of the disease, established more isolation centres and stepped up testing at the community level and of potentially vulnerable groups.”

He told the meeting that various relief materials were handed out, including medical and food supplies as well as conditional cash transfer to about 3.6 million vulnerable households affected by the stay-at-home order.

He said the government responded to the economic needs of citizens by supporting households and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) affected by COVID-19.

The President of the UN General Assembly, Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, said his office would continue to work with NAM to promote partnerships, galvanise the engagement needed to defeat COVID-19 and reduce its impact on communities.

Muhammad-Bande also commended WHO, NAM member-states, civil society groups and the private sector, for providing support and services in the fight against the pandemic as he highlighted the adverse effects of the disease on mankind.

‘‘COVID-19 has disrupted billions of lives with far-reaching effects on the health and livelihoods of people.

‘‘The International Labour Organisation estimates that workers will lose as much as $3.4 trillion in income by the end of 2020. Global health systems are under enormous stress and global travel has been severely impacted.

‘‘States, corporations and families are already counting losses that could only be imagined in a state of war. Without alternative sources of income, workers and their families will have no means to survive,’’ he said.

He noted that the pandemic has deepened the hitherto inequalities between and among nations and also strained tenuous systems, plunging many nations into deeper poverty and hunger.