Haile Gebrselassie has said athletes must use their platform to help others ©Getty Images

Ethiopian athletics icon and former holder of the marathon world record Haile Gebrselassie has donated £30,000 ($37,000/€34,000) to his nation's COVID-19 relief fund.

The fund, set up by Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, is to help towards preventing further infection, with 111 confirmed cases to date in Ethiopia resulting in the deaths of three people.

Gebrselassie has called for unity in these times of uncertainty, according to Athletics Weekly.

"This is not a time to take advantage, but to save lives - right now we have to stand side by side," Gebrselassie said.

He is now the owner of several businesses in the country including hotels and coffee farms, infamously exchanging a war of words with British distance runner Sir Mo Farah regarding theft and assault allegations during Farah's stay at one of Gebrselassie's hotels.

Gebrselassie has also expressed worries over the financial future of his 3,000 employees, but maintains a hope to pay them during what is expected to be a period of economic crisis.

"I don't sleep more than four hours a night.

"What happens if my employees have no income? 

"What happens if something happens to me? 

"Who will take care of the people I love?

"Even as a chief executive officer, I have no control over this situation, maybe that makes me listen to my employees and customers better."

Concerns have been raised over a potential famine in Ethiopia as well due to the reduction in food production caused by the pandemic.

"Many of my employees work on coffee farms and I urge them to also plant potatoes - if not for sale, then for themselves and their families, then they will have something to fall back on," Gebrselassie advised.

The double Olympic champion over 10,000 metres also said that athletes must use their position to give hope to fans. 

"It's great that athletes donate for COVID-19 funds, but they could actually also give an encouraging message to those in need: don't worry about the darkness of today, think about the light of tomorrow," Gebrselassie added.

To date, there have been more than 2.44 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, resulting in the deaths of at least 168,000 people.