Within the framework of its mission of eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and developing resistance to crises and natural disasters, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is helping states to promptly and effectively respond to the health and development crisis caused by the new corona virus COVID-19 pandemic.
Globally, the UNDP actively supports the countries affected by the virus by:
1. providing support for strengthening the health care systems in response to COVID-19,
2. developing a response on the level of society as a whole, including the local and national authorities, civil society and the private sector,
3. alleviating the socio-economic consequences of the epidemic and preserving the level of progress achieved up to now when it comes to achieving Sustainable Development Goals, including the elimination of the stigma and discrimination resulting from the spread of COVID-19, and by providing support to marginalised persons and vulnerable populations.
WHAT UNDP IS DOING IN SERBIA
From the very beginning of the crisis caused by the corona virus epidemic in Serbia, the UNDP team has been working with great dedication on the accelerated development of new solutions and on organising help where it is needed most, with a view to contributing to the preservation of the health and welfare of all the citizens of Serbia, paying special attention to the most vulnerable groups. We provide support and work in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Serbia, with international partners such as the EU, and also with the civil and the private sector. A holistic approach and integrated solutions, approaching the problem from various perspectives, which the UNDP has also applied up to now in its work, are of particular importance in crisis situations such as this one.
SUPPORTING THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
- UNDP, in cooperation with the EU, has so far organized the arrival of 15 cargo aircrafts with 720 tons of urgently needed medical and protective supplies. The shipments delivered by these planes included respirators, protective masks and suits, medical gloves and COVID-19 tests, intended for health care institutions throughout the country, as well as others fighting the epidemic. The flights were financed using funds from an overall package worth 93 million euros, which was the amount that the European Union announced as financial assistance to Serbia to help the country fight the COVID-19 virus epidemic. At the moment, the process of organising delivery of additional loads of medical equipment is under way.
- UNDP has supported the organisation Tačka povratka (Returning Point) and the Government of the Republic of Serbia in their intention to issue an open call to health care workers from Serbia who are currently abroad, but are not professionally engaged at the moment, to temporarily return, if need be, and help with their expertise, experience and skills in the fight against the corona virus in Serbia. So far 347 health care workers have responded to this call.
- In partnership with the World Health Organization, we launched a Challenge for new, innovative solutions or replicate solutions existing in other parts of the world, to protect service providers and caregivers from COVID-19 and to minimize the risk of transmission. There are now 50 applications received that are being evaluated by UNDP-WHO selection committee. The chosen proposals will be offered the opportunity of co-financing. UNDP and WHO will enable and facilitate dialogue with relevant national authorities in terms of getting licenses and promote the project outputs as examples of best practices.
CREATING NEW DIGITAL SOLUTIONS
- In order to ensure a safe and secure network of volunteers for the purpose of providing support to citizens over 65 years of age, who are in obligatory isolation now, and also to other citizens who may require this sort of help, the UNDP has supported the establishment of the online platform “Budi volonter” (Be a Volunteer), as well a unified “COVID-19” contact centre, which can be reached by dialling 19819, with a view to providing answers to all questions about the corona virus and contacting the authorised services at the Ministry of Health and the Institutes for Public Health throughout the country. All people who wish to help in the fight against the corona virus as volunteers can also apply by dialling 19819. All the applications submitted by interested citizens who wish to help as volunteers will be checked, with a view to preventing any possibility of abuse. The volunteers whose applications are accepted will afterwards be contacted by city and municipal crisis headquarters that will provide detailed instructions and give them their first tasks. Thanks to this platform, by April 17, there were over 7,000 volunteers available to local governments in Serbia.
- We have supported the Office for Information Technologies and eGovernment (ITE) when it came to initiating the portal Digitalna solidarnost (Digital Solidarity), which contains information about over 90 free online platforms, tools for learning and working from home, as well as free books, courses, films, music, television programmes and cultural contents available during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the support of the UK Government Good Governance Fund, we have optimized this portal to make it easier for citizens to search and access free digital content.
- UNDP has supported the ITE in making data on all the confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in Serbia available within the framework of the Open Data Portal (Portal otvorenih podataka). There are 4 data sets available: COVID 19 - Self-isolation, COVID 19 - Infected, COVID-19 Daily Report and COVID-19 Ambulances. The data are updated daily and include the number of tests performed, number of registered cases and where they were registered, number of hospitalised and number of COVID-19 patients on respirators, as well as number and distribution by sex and the average age of the deceased.
- In partnership with the “Digital Serbia” Initiative and Data Science Serbia UNDP organized a digital meet-up "Data against Coronavirus", inviting data science community in Serbia to come together and explore how data can be used to fight Coronavirus. Over 150 participants presented and discussed data science projects from the local IT community focusing on COVID-19 pandemic. Initiatives and ideas can be focused on using data to help solve the current situation resulting from the pandemic, but also offer suggestions for addressing its future consequences. UNDP and its partners will seek to strengthen these initiatives through additional human or other resources.
SUPPORTING THE MOST VULNERABLE
- UNDP has helped the Food Bank to provide 4,000 packages for persons with disabilities and children with special needs in all 17 Belgrade municipalities, by covering the cost of transportation and donating masks for the organization's volunteers.
- With UNDP facilitation, the IKEA company has donated 250 beds, mattresses and bed linen to the Gerontology Center in Belgrade. This institution was selected after consultations with the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans' and Social Affairs.
- The available field data clearly show that, in the current situation of a state of emergency and isolation, the risk of increased gender-based violence is higher. In accordance with the consultations conducted between the UNDP and the Ministry of Justice pertaining to the possible escalation of violence and problems that may be encountered in implementing the institutional response to violence against women, the High Court Council has classified cases of domestic violence (including protective measures for the victims of violence) among those that the courts will continue to deal with even during the state of emergency, specifying that such cases will continue being prosecuted before courts of law without delay.
- UNDP supported 20 public prosecutors from 8 prosecution districts in Serbia to organize on-line multi-agency meetings for processing newly reported and ongoing cases of domestic violence. Multi-agency cooperation is regulated by the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence in Serbia and binds the responsibility of three state bodies: police, prosecutors and centers for social work, but also includes other institutions such as healthcare and the education system, employment services, and civil society organizations. The on-line multi-agency cooperation enabled more efficient work of these institutions during pandemic.
- We provided 3 centers for victims of sexual violence and rape with sanitation packages and protective equipment and supported them to open additional phone helplines for women survivors of gender-based violence.
- UNDP helped the Autonomous women’s center, which provides legal and psychological assistance to women survivors of violence, to increase their SOS helpline capacities. During the state of emergency this SOS helpline received 6 times more calls for assistance that usual.
- UNDP supports the group "Journalists Against Violence" (Novinarke protiv nasilja) in spreading the messages about the available psycho-social support provided by SOS help-lines, in developing advice for women in situation of violence, in creating a social network campaign to encourage citizens to report violence in their neighbourhood, as well as in responding to media coverage of violence against women and sexism.
- UNHCR and the UNDP, together with civil society organisations that represent or deal with internally displaced persons and Roma communities, have made a joint assessment of their needs and prepared the procurement and delivery of hygienic and humanitarian help to the most vulnerable individuals, including those who live in informal settlements and unofficial collective centres.
- UNDP has organised translation of the contents of posters issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) aimed at the Roma population into the local Roma dialect. The posters that will be distributed to civil society Roma organisations contain information on personal measures that are to be taken for the purpose of protecting health and safety, advice on preparing food and guidelines on travelling.
- 30 Roma Community UN Volunteers, are engaged within UNHCR and UNDP joint project and the Rapid Response Facility, will be supporting the most vulnerable Roma in their local communities. By the end April, and in response to requests from Roma CSOs, UNVs will start making assessments of the most pressing needs and inform local administrations and Emergency Response Units of the type of assistance required. UNVs will remain engaged to support the Roma communities during and after the epidemic.
- UNDP helped Roma Association YUROM to prepare and print 500 posters and 10,000 leaflets for Roma collectors of secondary raw materials with warnings not to touch and collect communal waste during the pandemic, to prevent contagion and spread of the virus in Roma communities. Special focus is on avoiding discarded mattresses, pillows, linens and other similar waste from hospitals, elderly care homes and individual households. YUROM would place posters in the visibility of places where such waste is usually deposited, and distribute leaflets in Roma communities in 40 cities throughout Serbia, from Subotica to Bujanovac. UNDP and YUROM shared these info materials via social media as well.
SPREADING MESSAGES ON HEALTH PRESERVATION AND SOLIDARITY
- UNDP, through the social networks Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, transmits all the relevant messages and information of the WHO in connection with the corona virus pandemic, as well as advice aimed at health preservation and protection.
- In order to help the citizens of Serbia, under the conditions of compulsory self-isolation and social distancing measures, to receive the help that they need more easily, and also to contribute to disseminating all the good examples of solidarity, we have initiated the campaign #Zajedno Razdvojeni (#TogetherApart). We have called upon all those who are active on social networks to share with us good examples of volunteering, donating and providing assistance. In this way, we wish to help those who need help to obtain information more easily.
UNDP response to COVID-19 is part of a broader and coordinated response of the UN, which supports the WHO Strategic Preparedness Response Plan. The UNDP programme and policy build upon the previous experiences with the Ebola and Zika virus epidemics, as well as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and also upon our long history of cooperation with states and communities – with the public and the private sector, in confronting emergency situations and crises.