The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge in today’s fast changing world, and we are facing it as a global society. Like climate change, it is testing our resilience in all sectors of the economy and all areas of development—from public health, social protection and governance, to information sharing and economic policies. And just as with climate change, it will take the efforts of everyone working together.
In Europe and Central Asia UNDP has always worked to make sure the most vulnerable are not left behind, promoting prevention and preparedness against crises and shocks.
With this experience, we stand ready to assist countries to counter the crisis, assess its impact, and move forward with early recovery and long-term development. It is heartening to see that some of our previous efforts position us well in responding to the current crisis, such as the digitalization of legal aid, court systems and service provisions, transparent procurement of drugs and essential health services, and strategies in-place for socio-economic impact and resilience.
Already our countries are springing into action. UNDP Serbia and our European Union partners have adapted a recent €7.5 million disaster resilience project to provide much-needed medical supplies including respirators, personal protective equipment and diagnostic tests.
The first aircraft carrying 258 tonnes of critical medical equipment from China landed in late March in Belgrade. Respirators, protective equipment and diagnostic tests will be distributed to the healthcare facilities across the country. Nine out of 15 cargo shipments have been completed.
UNDP Moldova has created a support platform for distance learning, which allows students to study from home. Twenty five schools are already using Studii.md and another 88 educational institutions have requested to be connected, delivering learning opportunities to some 31,844 students, teachers and parents who have registered so far.
UNDP Ukraine is building on its drug procurement work with the Ministry of Health to ensure support for hard-to-reach populations, including those in conflict zones.
And UNDP Azerbaijan held a global virtual hackathon to pitch ideas to combat some of the biggest challenges the pandemic brings. Over 600 people from 40 countries took part in it. With the Ministry of Health, they have launched a coronavirus self-checker bot.
UNDP continues to be on the ground, and will be there as we work through this crisis together.
The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its threat to people and economies, are yet to be fully assessed and understood. We know it will be wide-reaching, and that our response will need complex answers, especially for vulnerable communities and social groups; countries with fragile economies and underdeveloped healthcare systems; communities affected by conflicts; women, elderly and marginalized groups already suffering from social stigma.
But it also presents us with the unprecedented opportunity to rethink the development trends that are holding us back, improve social and economic eco-system and harness the best opportunities provided by technology and innovation.