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Causeni Hospital was the first district hospital in Moldova to open its doors to COVID-19 patients. The hospital received protective and medical equipment through UNDP and the Government of Switzerland. Photo: UNDP Moldova


New York — UN Country Teams have mobilized globally to assess and respond to the social and economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, working with 93 governments to document its impact and with 127 to launch response plans boosting protections for the most vulnerable people and resilience to future shocks.

These response plans reflect broad collaboration among UN Country Teams —with UNDP as technical lead— as well as international financial institutions (IFIs), bilateral donors, and private sector and civil society entities, with an estimated 56 percent response plans receiving input from the World Bank and 32 percent from the IMF. Most response plans extend through the end of 2021.

The UN’s Framework for the Immediate Socio-Economic Response to the COVID 19 Crisis warns that the COVID-19 pandemic “is far more than a health crisis: it is affecting societies and economies at their core. While the impact of the pandemic will vary from country to country, it is already increasing poverty and inequalities at a global scale.”

Meeting in September during the UN General Assembly, Heads of State and Government called for bold and urgent multilateral action to mitigate the humanitarian and development crisis unfolding around the world—including concessional finance for developing countries in need, steps to address liquidity constraints, debt relief, aligning finance with sustainability goals, advancing equitable digitalization, and tackling illicit financial flows.

Following are examples of UN-led socio-economic responses to COVID-19:

· In Ecuador, COVID-19 has slammed the commerce, industry, tourism, transport, and health sectors, sharply increasing the number of families living in poverty. UNDP, in close collaboration with UN agencies, the European Union, and World Bank, has guided the formulation of a recovery strategy and provided expertise to more than 100 Government officials. UNDP has also provided protective equipment for hospital staff and indigenous communities, helped establish a platform where people share recipes for homemade disinfectants, and expanded chatbot tools providing information about the pandemic and how to avoid, treat, and curb it.

· In Ghana, the Ministry of Finance, with UNDP support, is piloting a financing mechanism in five districts that includes the private sector—aimed at mobilizing private investment to fuel recovery. The Vodafone Foundation, Access Bank, and Harvest Foundation are working to expand digital access and services, while the flagship COVID-19 Local Economies Tracker and COVID-19 Business Tracker are supporting national response to the crisis.

· In Jordan, UN agencies are scaling up efforts to support the Government’s health response, providing humanitarian assistance for vulnerable host communities and refugee populations, and mitigating the socio-economic impact of COVID-19. UNDP is also supporting proper disposal and treatment of medical waste, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and solid waste from quarantine centers—which have created a large environmental burden. This includes procurement of sterilization machines for 11 public hospitals and training for some 130 Health Ministry staff.

· In Maldives, the Government is developing a financing strategy for sustainable recovery, notably by addressing worsening climate risks and increasing water scarcity. Its Integrated National Financing Framework is exploring all financial flows including the national budget, development aid, private sector, and capital markets. The National Bureau of Statistics, with UNFPA, is now providing snapshots of government spending on health and education, while UNDP and WHO have equipped five regional health hubs with COVID-19 25,000 testing kits.

· In Moldova, UNDP is working with other agencies to deliver vital medical supplies, reduce prison populations, expand telemedicine, re-train some 10,000 people including returning migrants who have lost jobs and incomes, launch digital marketplaces, and boost capacity in the health and corrections systems. UN agencies and IFIs are also enhancing infection control at national points of entry, advising the Government on social spending and budgeting, helping people through social protection and basic services, supporting jobs and vulnerable workers in the informal sector, helping guide the necessary surge in fiscal and financial stimulus, and promoting social cohesion.

· In Myanmar, where extreme poverty is expected to surge by nearly 24 percent in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, UNDP leads a team of 19 agencies, funds, programs, and IFIs to mitigate COVID-19 impacts. An 18-month response plan includes one-time cash transfers to internally displaced people and other vulnerable groups. UN agencies initially focused on averting massive lay-offs and bankruptcies in sectors providing crucial jobs and livelihoods to Myanmar households. Responses have included emergency cash grants for 80,000 garment workers, a public awareness campaign informing workers and employers how to protect themselves in work environments, and loans to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprise.

· In Pakistan, where tens of millions of people face chronic food insecurity, a UNDP-led socio-economic assessment included a Vulnerability Index, which identified 34 districts as “very high vulnerability” and 43 as “high vulnerability,” with some 67.8 million people in these areas. UN agencies in Pakistan are working to mitigate worsening hunger and vulnerability by providing public information on agriculture and food supplies, monitoring and regulating markets to prevent hoarding, price-gouging, and speculation, helping to protect food and farm workers, ensuring transport of food supplies, identifying and referring cases of acute malnutrition, and promoting age-appropriate complementary feeding, including multi-micronutrient supplementation.

· In Seychelles, whose tourism is expected to plunge by 70 percent in 2020, UNDP is leading UN agencies in responding to the crisis by procuring protective clothing, disinfectants, fumigation supplies, and bedding for quarantine and isolation centers equipment, supporting a public messaging campaign to inform communities how to prevent and contain the pandemic, helping with contact-tracing and disease containment, and supporting rollout of mobile testing and screening centers for front-line airport and sea-port health professionals.

· In Uzbekistan, 17 UN agencies and six IFIs are working to create jobs, re-skill migrant workers, deliver medical and protective gear, and provide vital information and expertise to its 33 million people. Priority areas for multilateral response and mitigation are health, macro-economy, social protection, job creation, education, social cohesion, and data and assessments. In Uzbekistan alone, IFIs have secured some US$3 billion in loans. Other responses include emergency financing, guidance on remote learning, trade guarantees and cash advances for small and medium-sized enterprises, support to frontline law enforcement officers at border crossing points, expanded access to clean water, and science-based communications about the pandemic and services available to mitigate and contain it.

· In Zimbabwe, home to some of the world’s poorest young people, COVID-19 is projected to shrink real GDP by 7.4 percent in 2020—and put education and jobs even further out of reach for the country’s already vulnerable youths. UN agencies, under UNDP’s technical lead, are rolling out a socio-economic response framework focusing on health, social protection and basic services, supporting jobs and businesses, building cohesion and resilience, and creating robust and functional e-platforms for coordinating supply, demand, and distribution. UNDP initiatives include grants and credit guarantees to young entrepreneurs, creation of safe co-working spaces, and support aimed at expanding access to export markets.