UNDP seeks unprecedented COVID-19 support for vulnerable countries

World Monday 30/March/2020 18:25 PM
By: Times News Service
UNDP seeks unprecedented COVID-19 support for vulnerable countries

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Monday urged the international community to help vulnerable countries to get over the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This pandemic is a health crisis, but not just a health crisis. For vast swathes of the globe, the pandemic will leave deep, deep scars," said UNDP administrator Achim Steiner.

"Without support from the international community, we risk a massive reversal of gains made over the last two decades, and an entire generation lost, if not in lives then in rights, opportunities and dignity," he said.

According to a press release issued by the UNDP, income losses are expected to exceed 220 billion U.S. dollars in developing countries, and nearly half of all jobs in Africa could be lost. With an estimated 55 percent of the global population having no access to social protection, these losses will reverberate across societies, impacting education, human rights and, in the most severe cases, basic food security and nutrition.

"Under-resourced hospitals and fragile health systems are likely to be overwhelmed. This may be further exacerbated by a spike in cases, as up to 75 percent of people in least developed countries lack access to soap and water," it said.

"Additional social conditions, such as poor urban planning and overpopulation in some cities, weak waste disposal services, and even traffic congestion impeding access to healthcare facilities, may all add to the caseload," it added.

Working in close coordination with the World Health Organization, UNDP is helping countries to prepare for, respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing particularly on the most vulnerable.

The UNDP is already working to support health systems in countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Djibouti, El Salvador, Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Nigeria, Paraguay, Panama, Serbia, Ukraine and Vietnam.

A UNDP-led COVID-19 Rapid Response Facility has already been launched, funded by existing resources and capitalized with an initial 20 million dollars. This facility is disbursing through a fast-track mechanism enabling UNDP teams to offer immediate assistance to countries for their national response. UNDP anticipates a minimum 500 million dollars to support 100 countries, said the press release.

The UNDP has called upon the international community to take action and think beyond the immediate impact of COVID-19. The organization has emphasized the need for three key points: resources to help stop the spread of the virus, support to respond during the outbreak, and resources to prevent the economic collapse of developing countries.

As an immediate response, the UNDP is building on the support it has been providing to China and other Asian countries to help strengthen their health systems. This includes helping them procure much-needed medical supplies and leverage digital technologies, as well as ensuring health workers are paid.

At the same time, the UNDP will support countries to slow the spread of the virus and provide social protection for vulnerable populations, promoting a whole-of-government and whole-of-society response to complement efforts in the health sector, said the news release.

In the longer term, the UNDP will work with countries to assess the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 and take urgent recovery measures to minimize the long-term impact, particularly for vulnerable and marginalized groups, and help societies recover better.

"Tackling COVID-19 and its impacts will require partners who can work across systems and sectors and in contexts that are both complex and uncertain," according to the news release. "UNDP is fully operational in 170 countries and territories and focused on its COVID-19 response, mobilizing all its assets to respond to this unprecedented challenge."