Humanity needs leadership and
solidarity to defeat COVID-19
The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War Two. Since its emergence in Asia late last year, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica. Cases are rising daily in Africa the Americas, and Europe.
Countries are racing to slow the spread of the disease by testing and treating patients, carrying out contact tracing, limiting travel, quarantining citizens, and cancelling large gatherings such as sporting events, concerts, and schools.
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.
Read the report United Nations Comprehensive Response to COVID-19.
When news first emerged about COVID-19, UNDP’s team in China quickly rose to the challenge, providing PPE and joining forces with WHO on an education campaign to help curb the virus, especially among vulnerable and marginalized communities.
UNDP’s Country Offices in the Asia and the Pacific region responded in a timely manner, providing Governments with life-supporting medical equipmentsuch as x-ray machines, infrared thermometers, infusion pumps, protective suits, gloves, hand sanitisers, as well as digital tools -- helping to mitigate the immediate impact of the pandemic.
UNDP quickly produced a socio-economic analysis of the impact of COVID-19in the region that urged governments to overhaul policies and invest in public health, economic stimulus, and social safety nets. UNDP then switched gears to focus on longer-term, socio-economic recovery and re-building for a more resilient, digital, and green future, looking at how we can help countries manage complexity and uncertainty in four vital areas: governance, social protection, the green economy, and digital disruption.
“As the stresses from COVID-19 impacts changed, we evolved our response. From PPE supplies to socio-economic recovery plans, to strengthening public service and social protection systems. Now we are supporting countries with digital innovations to ensure the equitable and efficient delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines in countries such as India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and many more.”
—Kanni Wignaraja, UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
“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
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.