Coronavirus debt cancellation demand

Day of action calls on governments to cancel debt payments extracted from lower-income countries now hit by coronavirus.

In Mali, there are twenty ventilators for a population of 19 million. In Haiti, there are 64 ventilators to cover 11 million people.

There's been a massive response to Global Justice Now's call to cancel debts to help fight coronavirus in the global south.

More than a hundred organisations around the world have backed the campaign, and hundreds of thousands of people have signed petitions in many countries. Plus, high-profile figures from former prime ministers to the Pope have started to speak up in support.

Across Africa, Asia and Latin America, low-income countries urgently need to scale up their health spending in the face of this pandemic. But they’re due to spend over $40 billion (US dollars) on debt payments in 2020 alone. This is money that could be used now to save lives as this terrible virus continues to spread.


In Mali, there are twenty ventilators for a population of 19 million. In Haiti, there are 64 ventilators to cover 11 million people. Kenya has 130 beds in intensive care units, for 50 million people. We have 4,000 ICUs in the UK – and we all know it’s not enough.

Tomorrow, G20 finance ministers are holding a virtual meeting as part of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings this week. That’s why today, we’re joining the Jubilee Debt Campaign and allies from across the world in a day of action to #CancelTheDebt. 

Can you help by signing our petition to the UK chancellor, Rishi Sunak, calling for debt cancellation now?

Our pressure has already forced powerful lenders to begin discussing the debt burden. The Financial Times reports that the G20 are considering a six or nine-month moratorium on debt repayments, while options for further ‘debt relief’ are discussed. And last night the IMF announced an initial $500 million of debt payments would be covered for 25 of the poorest nations, via contributions from countries including the UK.


But so far the response falls vastly short of the scale of the crisis. Oxfam has estimated that the pandemic could plunge half a billion people into poverty, undoing many of the gains of the last decade or more.

Yet the IMF and World Bank have not committed any of their own funds to cancellation, even though a large share of the debts are owed to them. And private creditors and some governments are pushing for debt payments to only be postponed, not cancelled, despite the massive economic shock debtor countries face. We need more than token measures.

That’s why it’s important to step up our campaign today. When we’ve won debt cancellation in the past, we’ve had to push powerful governments, and the global institutions they control, every step of the way. Now that we’ve put debt on the agenda, we need them to know we’re not going to ease off. Please can you sign the petition to the UK chancellor, Rishi Sunak, now?

Together with allies, let's keep the pressure up at the start of this vital week for our campaign.

This Author 

Jonathan Stevenson is a campaigner at Global Justice Now.