Coronavirus has exposed the "fragile skeleton" of societies and could drive 100 million people into extreme poverty, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Saturday.
On the occasion of the 102nd birthday of the late Nelson Mandela – South Africa's first black president – Guterres said that the corona virus has "highlighted" global injustice.
"We were brought to our knees by a microscopic virus. The pandemic has shown the fragility of our world."
"Whole regions that have made progress in eradicating poverty and reducing inequality have been rolled back by years within a few months," he warned during a virtual memorial lecture organized by the Johannesburg-based Nelson Mandela Foundation.
The economic consequences of the pandemic, which infected more than 14 million people and killed nearly 600,000 people worldwide, are disproportionately felt among informal workers, small businesses and women, Guterres said.
"We are facing the deepest global recession since World War II," he said. "Another hundred million people could be pushed into extreme poverty. We could see historical famines."
Coronavirus is an "X-ray" that "uncovered breaks in the fragile skeleton of the societies we built," he added, citing unequal health care, unpaid care, income differentials, and climate change as some of the concerns.
"It reveals errors and untruths everywhere … The delusion that we live in a post-racist world. The myth that we are all in the same boat."
He said the 26 richest people in the world had as much wealth as half the world's population.
"But income, wages and wealth are not the only yardstick for inequality," he added.
Guterres said people no longer have patience with the apparent differences and discrimination between societies.
He highlighted the global anti-racism movement fueled by the death of George Floyd – an African American killed by a white cop in May – simply as "another sign that people have enough".
Enough of "inequality and discrimination that treats people as criminals because of their skin color", enough of "structural racism" and "systematic injustice".
Corona virus has also given the world's leading politicians the opportunity to build an "equal and more sustainable world".
"We're at the breaking point. But we know which side of the story we're on."
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)