The managing director of the World Bank has told Sky News that the coronavirus could wreak devastation on populations in the developing world.
Axel van Trotsenberg says poorer countries urgently need financial support to fight the pandemic – and that the job losses crippling the US economy will be felt across the globe.
More than one million cases of coronavirus have been reported around the world, but the figure is likely to be much higher.
Over 10 million people in the US have already applied for unemployment benefits.
Mr van Trotsenberg told Sky News’ US correspondent Amanda Walker: “The concerning part is in the poorest countries where health systems are very weak.
“In fragile states they are even weaker so this coronavirus can have a devastating effect on populations.
“They will be affected by the economic turndown but what you are going to see with the very poor is that they need food.”
Nearly 51,500 people have died from after testing positive for Covid-19.
The US accounts for about 236,000 of the confirmed cases – more than any other country, according to the tally.
The World Bank has said it is prepared to spend $160bn (£129bn) in emergency aid to help developing nations cope with the challenges they face as COVID-19 spreads further.
India, the third largest economy in Asia, will receive the largest share of the initial funding – $1bn (£800m) – to support better screening for the virus, contact tracing and laboratory diagnostics; pay for personal protective equipment; and set up new isolation wards for those infected, the bank said.
“There are huge challenges for the very poor to get even the basic needs after all, the poorest countries they represent a quarter of the world – 2.5 billion people,” said Mr van Trotsenberg.
The UN General Assembly has unanimously approved a resolution recognising “the unprecedented effects” of the coronavirus pandemic and calling for “intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat” COVID-19.
The resolution also recognises COVID-19’s “severe disruption to societies and economies, as well as to global travel and commerce, and the devastating impact on the livelihood of people,” and that “the poorest and most vulnerable are the hardest hit”.
Mr van Trotsenberg said everywhere will be affected: “In general the US is one of the biggest economies, representing 70% of the overall wealth economy, so clearly this will have a major impact but so is the European economy.
“All of these economies are going to see a recession this year.”
But he added that he believes the world can recover from this: “I’m an eternal optimist. I think with our force and our working together, yes I believe we can recover and we will recover stronger.
“I think this is unprecedented. It is more severe than the financial crisis 11 years ago.”