Arab states step up response to coronavirus

March 30, 2020


According to the World Health Organization, Yemen is the only one of the 19 Arab states to have no reported cases of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Most countries in the region have national rapid response plans for public health threats. However, staff in these teams will require updated training to investigate and respond to the new virus.

Almost all Arab states are taking precautions to by closing borders, schools, public places, and encouraging telecommuting, cancelling prayers and, in Saudi Arabia’s case, pilgrimage to Mecca. These measures will adversely affect each country economically and socially.

Early warning surveillance is in place in most countries, especially those experiencing complex emergencies, but they may not be sensitive enough to detect emerging infectious diseases. Improving surveillance and investigation of, and response to, the pandemic requires improving disease surveillance and laboratory capacities.  

Preliminary estimates of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia suggest that the region could lose US$42 billion in Gross Domestic Product. Unemployment could increase by 1.2 percentage points. This means that 1.7 million people could lose their jobs this year.

Already, between January and mid-March 2020, businesses have registered massive losses in market capital—to the order of UD$420 billion. The consequent loss of wealth is equivalent to eight percent of the region’s total wealth.

To deal with the downward economic spiral and ease the anticipated negative economic and social implications, several Arab countries have already put in place mitigation measures. United Arab Emirates announced a US$27 billion stimulus plan to help boost the economy, including subsidies to water and electricity for citizens and commercial and industrial activities. Qatar will invest US$23 billion to provide financial and economic incentives to the private sector. Saudi Arabia announced a US$13 billion incentive to support large and small businesses. Egypt has unveiled a US$6 billion plan combat the coronavirus and support economic growth.

UNDP tailors its global response to the needs of countries across the region, in order to support their preparedness, response and recovery plans.

UNDP in Jordan is working with partners to combat the spread of COVID-19 and to support country’s health systems through a new project introducing advanced medical waste disposal technologies to improve medical waste management.

UNDP in Somalia has set up communications hub to raise people's awareness about the virus by producing videos, animations, radio spots and social media graphics.

UNDP in Lebanon with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International has launched on 25 March 2020 a campaign to fight misinformation about coronavirus.

UNDP in Yemen is adopting contingency measures to ensure our ability to continue to deliver essential services to communities affected by conflict.

UNDP Sudan is providing COVID-19 dedicated support to the Ministry of Health with existing Global Fund and UNDP resources, and it is also working to evaluate and mitigate the potential long-term economic impact of the virus

UNDP in Iraq and Kurdistan Human Rights Watch trained sixty women on sewing and tailoring in Ninewa over the course of a ten-day workshop to produce face masks.

The coronavirus is unprecedented in our lifetime and will leave deep and long-lasting scars, particularly on developing nations. UNDP has called on the international community to think beyond the pandemic’s immediate impact. We will continue to respond urgently to COVID-19 as part of our mission to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and build resilience to crises and shocks.