How to soften the impact of coronavirus during conflict

April 20, 2020


The rapid spread of coronavirus COVID-19 has shocked the world, with more than 150,000 people dead and more than two million confirmed cases. The International Labour Organization estimates the global economy will lose more than 195 million jobs.  

It is expected that the pandemic will hit developing countries harder, with income losses exceeding US$220 billion and nearly half of all workers in Africa losing their jobs. An effective response must be driven by solidarity, science, and human rights, whilst focusing on the most vulnerable.

For the United Nations, and for UNDP in particular, poverty, climate change, inequality, and conflict are relevant to the whole of humanity. For this reason, we have been listening to people and experts and working to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

The COVID-19 crisis will be felt in education, human rights and, in the most severe cases, basic food security and nutrition, especially for the estimated 55 percent of the people in the world with no social protection.

It is important to keep in mind that total number of confirmed cases does not provide an accurate picture as, such as in Libya, there is a lack of testing capacity.

The need to respond to the global health crisis only adds to the protracted security, political and economic crises. People in Libya live in permanent uncertainty and fear, as open conflict continues.

This new challenge comes to under-resourced hospitals and a fragile health system, plus poor urban planning, the weak waste disposal services, and even traffic congestion, which slows down emergency vehicles and first responders.

For years UNDP, and other UN agencies have been supporting public institutions, local governments, civil society and communities in Libya to achieve stabilization, resilience and recovery, and contributing to shaping the conditions for peace and social cohesion in the west, east and south of the country.

In coordination with public institutions and the United Nations, we are responding to COVID-19 in three ways.

The first is supporting national and local institutions to strengthen their health systems. With support from 13 international partners, our Stabilization Facility for Libya, and with funds from the European Union, our resilience programme continues supporting all three regions of Libya with health infrastructure, health waste management, and water and sanitation equipment.

We are providing key strategic health infrastructure and medical equipment, upgrade capacities for local production of protection gear, help to the Ministry of Health to build isolation rooms in hospitals and clinics, as well as provide technical assistance to design medical oxygen plants and buy hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and coronavirus test kits.

We are supporting Ministry of Justice to prevent and control COVID-19 in prisons.

We are also working with the Libya Accelerator Lab, part of a UNDP global network, to apply innovative ways and tools to support the COVID-19 response.

The second is bringing all local and national authorities, civil society and the private sector around the table. This will include strengthening institutions for governance and crisis management at national and local level and raising awareness on the exposure and precautions against the virus through a network of communication officers of municipalities in the south, west, and east of the country.

UNDP works with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, so it can move forward with the Berlin peace process and pave the way for a comprehensive political solution, despite the constraints determined by the threat of the virus.

We are hosting online reconciliation forums and advocating for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world issued by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to fight the common enemy. We are supporting a group of 100 peace mediators from all corners of Libya spreading their word online with the hashtags #unitedagainstcorona #peacenowstopcorona.

The third is addressing the socio-economic and human rights impacts of COVID-19 and safeguarding progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including addressing stigma and discrimination arising from its spread, and supporting marginalized people and vulnerable populations. In Libya we will assess capacities and planning for long term inclusive development with a special focus on most vulnerable groups. We’ll implement special measures for those whose livelihoods are most affected and conduct communication and advocacy campaigns engaging with civil society and community organizations to prevent discrimination.

Within the UN system’s coordinated response in Libya, we are working to ensure that no one is left behind, that we support preparation, management and recovery of this crisis and develop the capacity for longer term prevention, as we continue making progress towards the SDGs.