UN system in Uganda launches US$ 316 million appeal for COVID-19 response

April 26, 2020

UNDP enables government, development partners, civil society and citizens attend event remotely via Zoom

KAMPALA, 23 April 2020 - The United Nations system in Uganda, together with 20 partner organisations, has embarked on mobilization of US$ 316 million to support the country in minimizing the impact of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on the most vulnerable groups over the next six months.

This resource mobilization drive comes as Uganda has confirmed 60 cases of COVID-19 so far and as the measures taken to combat the disease are constraining delivery of lifesaving services to those most in need.

Speaking at the launch, the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Rosa Malango, commended the Government of Uganda for the measures taken so far to stem the spread of the virus and invited development partners to invest in the appeal to bolster government’s response.

“This is the moment to come together to save lives and fight a common threat. We can only do this, united as the human race,” Ms. Malango said. The funding is urgently needed to ensure access to vital health services for children, women and the chronically ill. She added that the funding was also important to ensure that people can get back on their feet when the restrictions imposed are lifted. 

The UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Rosa Malango called on development partners to invest in Uganda’s Emergency Appeal for COVID response.

“The necessary restrictions on movement have significantly reduced the level of economic activity, particularly in the informal sector, which employs 85% of Ugandans. Up to 60 percent of informal enterprises have stopped their operations or moved below the poverty level, denying daily earnings to between five and six million informal workers, most of them living hand to mouth,” Ms. Malango noted.

The economic effects are likely to have a severe societal impact on a country where 21.4 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. 

“The measures are particularly worrisome for the elderly, the disabled, as well as female and child-headed families. These populations often do not have access to banking services and do not have savings to fall back on,” she added.

The resources generated will be used to assist 12.8 million of the people hardest hit. The funding will be invested in improving access to health, food and nutrition as well as social support and projects to rebuild livelihoods. Focus will also be placed on improving access to anti-retrovirals and other drugs treating chronic illnesses, as well as sexual and reproductive health services.

The UN and its partners will also support the creation of food banks, recovery of small-to-medium-size businesses and the scaling up of government social protection initiatives such as the Senior Citizens’ Grant programme and overall multi-sectoral coordination across government, among others.

Govt welcomes the UN appeal

While launching the appeal, Hon. Henry Okello Oryem, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (International Affairs), noted that while Uganda was doing well with less cases and reporting recoveries, it was “not yet out of the woods.” “The real war is yet to come,” he said, in reference to the long-term socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

“I do hereby launch the UN Emergency Appeal for Response to COVID-19 and its Impact on Uganda, to support the Government of Uganda and the people of Uganda, not only to prevent the spread of the virus but also to remain on course to achieve Vision 2040 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” Minister Oryem said.

In her opening remarks, Hon. Mary Karooro Okurut, the Minister for General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister, who is also designated to oversee SDGs implementation in the country, applauded the UN for prioritizing support for the recovery of small and medium enterprises. She said the appeal will complement the government efforts.

Lifting lockdown

On his part, Dr. Yonas Tegegn, the Country Representative for the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Uganda, said that key considerations have to be made before lifting the lockdown which many countries have adopted as one of the measures to suppress further transmission of the disease.

“The lockdown may not be lifted in one go. When the lockdown is lifted, the health system should be able to identify, test and isolate cases so that the disease isn’t transmitted further,” Dr. Tegegn said.

2. Left-Right: Dr. Yonas Tegegn, the Country Representative for the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Uganda, Hon. Henry Okello Oryem, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (International Affairs) and the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Rosa Malango, diplay copies of the UN Emergency Appeal for Uganda’s COVID 19 Response. Photo: ©UN Uganda/Monicah Aturinda Kyeyune

He emphasized that community buy-in is critical to the relaxation of existing necessary restrictions to movements, requirement for social distancing and sanitizing.  He commended all health workers, security forces and immigration officials at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic.

Virtual participants

The launch was telecast live over Uganda Broadcasting Services (UBC). In conformity with social distancing guidelines, only a handful of people attended the launch event while hundreds of people including, heads of United Nations agencies; UNDP, UNICEF, FAO, WFP, UNHCR and UNCDF, several development partners, civil society, media and citizens attended the launch via Zoom, thanks to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

As part of support to Uganda’s response against COVID-19, UNDP is supporting Government business continuity through digitalization. UNDP recently provided a collaboration tool, Zoom, and an assortment of ICT gadgets to worth $697,000 to enable virtual government business continuity as routine operations in several government ministries, departments and agencies were suspended and non-essential staff were asked to work from home.

The package included Zoom Collaboration Tool Licenses, computers (laptops) and HD video conferencing cameras. In so doing, UNDP is leveraging digital innovation to enable the government to maintain its core functions, and to plan, coordinate, communicate and finance its response to COVID-19 in a robust manner. This initiative is also expected to accelerate and promote e-governance in the medium-to-long term.

Over 100 government institutions have key officials registered and enabled to remotely video-conference in supporting government business continuity. Notable examples include the Office of the Prime Minister, the Office of the President, Parliament, Ministry of Local Government, and Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.

 ‘Don’t forget other emergencies’

Mr. Robert Kwesiga, the Secretary General of the Uganda Red Cross Society, said that COVID-19 should not take away attention from other emergencies, existing and unfolding. “The rainy season has just begun leading to flooding and landslides in Kasese and Ntoroko districts of the Mt. Rwenzori region, respectively. Flooding and landslides have a great impact on health and sanitation,” Mr. Kwesiga said.

Ms. Rita Aciro, the Executive Director of the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), who represented civil society, stated that emergency situations like the one created by COVID-19 can exacerbate inequalities. 

“They overlap with prevailing socio-economic challenges to create multiple levels of social injustice, especially among women and girls, the elderly and people with disabilities,” Ms. Aciro explained, adding that civil society is willing to work with the UN to ensure that the vulnerable people remain alive.