G20 #CancelTheDebt

Just as the lockdown eases in the UK and other parts of Europe, the coronavirus pandemic is beginning to take hold in many of the world’s poorest countries. Oxfam is working on the front lines to help the most vulnerable people cope with the crisis, but these countries desperately need more money to scale up health care and saves lives.

Here’s 4 reasons why the UK and other rich countries need to take urgent action on debt cancellation, and why we need your help ahead of a critical G20 meeting this weekend.

Tweet the Chancellor: #CancelTheDebt to save lives

1. Health care in many of the poorest countries needs an urgent injection of cash to help saves lives during the pandemic.

Many health care systems were struggling even before the coronavirus crisis hit. The DRC has just 5 ventilators for the entire population and less than half the number of nurses it needs.

Nurse Solange in scrubs stands next to a health centre

Solange is a nurse in the DRC. Image: Scherazade Bouabid/Oxfam

Solange is a nurse who works in a health centre in the Kasai region of the country.

“There are 40 people in this health centre, there are women who have given birth and are forced to share a bed with other women in the same situation. The health centre no longer has drugs…all patients who come to us have nothing. We have to go get food for them, or even buy clothes for their babies. With this situation we will have to close the health centre. Some suffer from diarrhoea, amebiasis, acute respiratory infections, malaria, or filariasis, etc. We are asking the government to help these people who have been turned away, to bring us drugs and medical supplies to treat these patients.”

Abbas is a father, headteacher and farmer living in a remote community in Northern Ghana. He speaks of his fears about the Coronavirus.

“Myself and my family are very scared because where we live in Northern Ghana, we don’t have any good health facilities, we don’t even have doctors. So we’re very scared and we’re praying that it does not get to where we are”.

Tweet the Chancellor: #CancelTheDebt to save lives

2. Many countries are faced with an impossible choice – pay back their debts or invest in health care.

It’s a scandal that last year 64 of the world’s poorest countries spent more on paying back debts to rich countries and financial institutions than on health care. Every dollar of debt repayment is a dollar that can’t be used to protect people from disease, hunger and destitution. For example, Ghana has less than one fifth of the number of doctors it needs, but the government is spending 11 times more on servicing its debt than health care. Debt relief is the quickest way of getting money to where it’s needed most. It could free up $40 billion this year alone, to help the poorest countries fight the Coronavirus crisis.

Tweet the Chancellor: #CancelTheDebt to save lives

3. The world’s richest countries have already agreed some debt relief, but it’s not enough.

In April, the G20 agreed a temporary suspension of debt payments for 73 countries. This was a welcome first step but its nowhere near enough. The G20’s agreement failed to address the massive debts to private lenders like banks and hedge funds, or some of the biggest multilateral lenders like the World Bank. In addition, many middle-income countries have been excluded from the deal despite being unable to afford debt repayments; Argentina, Ecuador and Lebanon have already defaulted this year. Just today, Oxfam and our partners published new research to show that they world’s poorest countries are being burdened by monthly debt repayments totaling £2.2 billion despite the G20’s debt initiative.

Tweet the Chancellor: #CancelTheDebt to save lives

4. Further action on debt relief is urgent, and momentum is building ahead of a key G20 meeting this weekend:

The demands for debt cancellation for the world’s poorest countries have continued to build over the last few months – from leaders in the African Union, to over 800,000 people who have signed petitions calling for urgent debt relief, including in support of Oxfam’s letter from health workers around the world. Most recently, faith leaders from across the country demanded action on debt from the Chancellor. This weekend will see an opportunity for those demands to be fulfilled.

Rishi Sunak will be meeting Finance Ministers from other rich countries this week to discuss the global economic response to the crisis. We know that debt relief is high on their agenda; now we need to push the Chancellor and other Finance Ministers to act. We’re calling for him and other leaders from the G20 to expand their debt initiative to all countries that need it, to include debts owed to private lenders and the World Bank, and to cancel debt repayments (rather than only suspend them).

Help us send an urgent message to the Chancellor ahead of the G20 meeting this weekend.

Tweet the Chancellor: #CancelTheDebt to save lives

Oxfam's coronavirus emergency response appeal

Share post: