Humanity needs leadership and solidarity to defeat COVID-19

March 23, 2020

The spread of COVID-19 is not just a health crisis, it is a social, economic and political crisis that will leave deep scars, and we have duty of care to the 7 billion people on this planet.

In order to deliver on its mission of eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities and building resilience to crisis and shocks, UNDP will help countries to urgently and effectively respond to COVID-19 in order to safeguard progress on universal health coverage and strengthen sustainable and resilient systems for health.

What is COVID-19?

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

For other questions specifically on the virus as distinct from its impact – eg, how does it spread, what are the symptoms, etc, – can be referred to WHO’s Q&A here.

How many people have been affected?

For the latest data on the number of people and countries affected, please refer to updates from the World Health Organisation:

What is UNDP’s role in responding to COVID-19?

UNDP will both promote and implement a response to COVID-19 that supports countries to face the challenges beyond the health sector, to both limit the spread of COVID-19 and to mitigate the potentially devastating impact it may have on vulnerable populations and economies.

UNDP’s support will also help ensure that the responses of individual countries are not just comprehensive, but equitable and inclusive so that no one is left out, and so that countries can continue to make progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals recognize that health and development are intrinsically linked, and that investments in health and other areas of development are mutually reinforcing. It takes into account widening economic and social inequalities, rapid urbanisation, threats to the climate and the environment, the continuing burden of HIV and other infectious diseases, and emerging challenges such as non-communicable diseases.

UNDP’s programmatic and policy offers builds upon past experience with the Ebola and Zika epidemics as well as pandemics including HIV, TB and malaria, as well our long history of working together with countries and communities – with the public and private sector -- to prepare for, mitigate, and tackle complexity and crisis with the necessary urgency.

Learning the lessons from HIV, we must join forces to reject misinformation and stigma, anchoring our responses and advocacy in science, evidence, human rights and solidarity.

What has UNDP done so far to help affected countries?

UNDP has been active in supporting affected countries since the very early stages of this crisis, including procuring and donating more than 2 million surgical masks, life supporting medical equipment, X-ray equipment and consumables, infrared thermometers, gloves and hand sanitizer.

UNDP has also provided critical supplies like patient monitoring systems, infusion pumps, protective suits and X-ray equipment.

Further examples of work that UNDP has supported:

In China: UNDP is supporting a social media campaign to disseminate information on COVID-19, targeted at elderly and other disadvantaged people in ethnic minority communities in 40 different regional dialects and ethnic minority languages.

In Lebanon: UNDP is supporting the government in developing a Disaster Risk Management Plan for COVID-19.

In Vietnam: UNDP is assisting the government in expanding outreach on vital Communications with ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, with a focus on rural areas in the border area with China.

What will UNDP do to help affected countries?

UNDP’s will help affected countries in three ways.

The first is supporting countries to strengthen their health systems to respond to COVID-19, which includes the procurement of health products and medical supplies, rapidly supporting health infrastructure, management of health waste, advising Ministries of Health, and supporting salary payments to health workers.

The second is setting up a whole-of society response bringing all local and national authorities, civil society and private sector around the table. This includes people from sectors whose primary mandate is not health – for example, those covering education, transport, public services and social welfare.

The third is addressing the socio-economic and human rights impacts of COVID-19 and safeguarding progress towards achieving the SDGs, including addressing stigma and discrimination arising from its spread and supporting marginalised people and vulnerable populations.

Collaboration with the private sector and our investment in innovation and digital development will be critical to implement the solutions being designed with countries, including to expand access to healthcare, to enhance digital system for financing and banking, and to enhance digital solutions for access to information and services.

What does UNDP plan to do in the longer term?

It is critical that the world plans for the recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak and learns lessons that will help prevent and address further such crises. In the longer term, UNDP will look at innovative ways to use information technology and data to put in place early warning systems, better manage such crises and ensure that the world makes full use of the lessons learned from this crisis.

Prevention is key. It is critical that we strengthen the capacity of vulnerable regions, vulnerable countries and vulnerable communities to best cope with crises of any sort, and to mitigate their impact as much as possible.