The Coronavirus pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time. Since its emergence late last year, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica. Cases are rising daily in Africa and South America, and Europe has taken over as the epicentre of the disease and more cases are now being reported every day than in China at the height of its epidemic.
The pandemic is moving like a wave—one that may yet crash on those least able to cope.
But COVID-19 is much more than a health crisis. By stressing every one of the countries it touches, it has the potential to create devastating social, economic and political crises that will leave deep scars.
We are in uncharted territory. Many of our communities are unrecognizable from even a week ago. Dozens of the world’s greatest cities are deserted as people stay indoors, either by choice or by government order. Across the world, shops, theatres, restaurants and bars are closing.
Every day, people are losing jobs and income, with no way of knowing when normality will return. Small island nations, heavily dependent on tourism, have empty hotels and deserted beaches. The International Labour Organization estimates that 25 million jobs could be lost.
Every country needs to act immediately to prepare, respond, and recover. The UN system will support countries through each stage, with a focus on the most vulnerable.
Drawing on our experience with other outbreaks such as Ebola, HIV, SARS, TB and malaria, as well as our long history of working with the private and public sector, UNDP will help countries to urgently and effectively respond to COVID-19 as part of its mission to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and build resilience to crises and shocks.
“We are already hard at work, together with our UN family and other partners, on three immediate priorities: supporting the health response including the procurement and supply of essential health products, under WHO’s leadership, strengthening crisis management and response, and addressing critical social and economic impacts.” UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner
UNDP is playing an instrumental role in this process. During the early stages, we worked on the procurement of critical medical supplies for China. UNDP donated urgently needed equipment and supplies to help China’s frontline health workers to combat the epidemic, both from abroad and through private sector partnerships.
As the situation in China improved, and as China is one of the last markets that has not imposed export bans on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and medical products, focus started shifting towards UNDP’s global emergency response for COVID-19 by facilitating the sourcing of medical supplies and equipment from China. We have supported procurement of ventilators and PPE for country offices including 250,000 masks for the UN Country Team in Iran, Mongolia and Vietnam, PPE and ventilators for Nigeria and Cameroon, and 1,000 ventilators for various COs among other supplies.
Yet the effects of the pandemic transcend health issues, impacting all aspects of economic and social life. In this regard, we are undertaking a Rapid Socio-Economic Assessment with RC/UNCT, supporting UNICEF and UNFPA, to assess the impact of the epidemic on poor households.
COVID-19's resulting economic slowdown not only effects GDP, but people's jobs and their livelihoods. As part of our response, UNDP conducted an analysis on the impact on businesses, the support needed by them for recovery, and the impact on their ability to implement the SDGs with a focus on large private-owned enterprises (POEs) and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
UNDP will also roll out a programme for COVID-19 recovery in poverty counties. The programme focuses on 3 areas: readiness to prevent a second wave; livelihoods and employment generation; and impoverished county recovery plans.
While we do this, we must also consider ways to prevent a similar pandemic recurring. In the longer term, UNDP will look at ways to help countries to better prevent and manage such crises and ensure that the world makes full use of what we will learn from this one.
A global response now is an investment in our future.