Humanity needs leadership and solidarity to defeat COVID-19
The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War Two. Since its emergence in Asia in 2019, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica.
Countries are racing to slow the spread of the disease by testing and treating patients, carrying out contact tracing, limiting travel, quarantining citizens, and cancelling large gatherings such as sporting events, concerts, and schools.
The pandemic is moving like a wave—one that may crash on those least able to cope.
But COVID-19 is much more than a health crisis. By stressing every one of the countries it touches, it has the potential to create devastating social, economic and political crises that will leave deep scars.
We are in uncharted territory. Across the world governments are trying to slow the spread of the virus through manadated lockdowns which have seen shops, theatres, restaurants and bars closing or operating with reduced hours.
Every day, people are losing jobs and income, with no way of knowing when normality will return.
Every country needs to act immediately to prepare, respond, and recover. The UN system is supporting countries through each stage, with a focus on the most vulnerable.
Drawing on our experience with other outbreaks such as Ebola, HIV, SARS, TB and malaria, as well as our long history of working with the private and public sector, UNDP is helping countries respond to COVID-19 as part of its mission to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and build resilience to crises and shocks.
“We are already hard at work, together with our UN family and other partners, on three immediate priorities: supporting the health response including the procurement and supply of essential health products, under WHO’s leadership, strengthening crisis management and response, and addressing critical social and economic impacts.” UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner
UNDP Zimbabwe Response
The COVID19 crisis comes to Zimbabwe on the back of two humanitarian disasters of the drought and Cyclone Idai. In addition, the country has been undergoing deep, yet necessary economic reforms. Since the declaration of COVID-19 as a national disaster by His Excellency, President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa on 18th March, 2020, Zimbabwe has taken strides towards awareness, prevention, surveillance, contact tracing and testing for the disease. The country’s comprehensive response plan is currently budgeted at US$324 million.
In response to the national plan, UNDP Zimbabwe has come up with US$ 35.9 million budgeted support through resource mobilisation and re-programming funds.
Our strategy is aligned in 3 pillars as follows:
Prepare – supporting the country to build resilient health systems
Respond – inclusive and multi-sectoral crisis management and response
and Recover – addressing the socio-economic impact and recovery.
Prepare ($US 18.4 million)
Under this pillar, US$4.1 million worth of personal protective equipment was procured through the Global Fund.
The Embassy of Sweden in Zimbabwe comitted an additional 15 million Swedish Kroner (about US $1.6 million) for resilience building in vulnerable communities. This additional support from Sweden allowed ZRBF to invest in water for agriculture and livestock as well as in response to increased hygiene requirements due to COVID-19.
USD 60k was repurposed under the EU funded Parliament Support Project to support the COVID19 response and Business Continuity by the Parliament.
Respond (US$ 7.8 million)
To ensure business continuity under the lockdown and related restrictions, UNDP and other UN agencies are providing e-Governance support for core functions (executive, judicial, legislative, and key constitutional commissions). This has included the provision of ICT equipment to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) to effectively monitor the human rights situation in the country during the pandemic.
Building upon previous work with key constitutional institutions such as the human rights, and peace and reconciliation commissions, UNDP is providing support for human rights monitoring and reporting, advocacy and compliance by law enforcement, and cohesion promotion and conflict prevention. A key achievement in the last year included providing support in the signing of a Joint Investigations Agreement by the ZHRC, National Peace and Reconciliation Commission-NPRC, which is set to improve complaints handling through joint human rights investigations in the country.
Leveraging the Youth Connekt platform, UNDP is involved in community engagement and risk communication activities to raise awareness, promote prevention measures, contact tracing and general hygiene.
In April, 2020, through the Youth Connekt Virtual Start-Up Tour Bus competition, 200 youth enterprises submitted business proposals of ready-made products or services in need of support to deploy solutions in response to the COVID19 pandemic. Four winners were awarded funds to scale up their business solutions and a further 35 youth entrepreneurs are receiving ongoing long-term business virtual incubation support through a partnership with a private sector partner-IBUHUB.
Leaving No One Behind
Efforts have been made towards targeted awareness raising to the disabled, people living with HIV and artisanal miners. By working collaboratively with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations(CSOs) we have developed and disseminated disability accessible videos and fact sheets on COVID-19; conducted an awareness raising talk show on COVID-19 and Disability; and lead community engagement programs on COVID19 and Gender Based Violence(GBV) with women and girls with disabilities.
With ongoing support from the Global Fund 1,168,191 adults and 1,316,400 children with HIV infection received antiretroviral therapy at 1,625 health facilities.
Increased efforts are also being made to link vicitims of GBV to essential services during the pandemic.
Building Urban Resilience
In response to challenges being faced in the informal sector with the closure of food markets, UNDP through its Urban Resilience Initiative has partnered with UNICEF, the Government of Zimbabwe and implenting partners Oxfam, CARE International and Dan Church Aid to refurbish markets with infrastructure which can endure the impact of current and future shocks such as the COVID19 pandemic.
Analysis of Food Supply Chains and the Informal Sector
The Accelerator Lab has engaged in a solution mapping excercise exploring of the effect of COVID19 on the informal sector with a focus on the interruption to food supply chain as a result of the lockdown and loss of livelihoods to thousands of vulnerable women.
Reimagining a post COVID19 Society
Using the power of digital tools and technology to raise awareness on the current pandemic, the Accelerator Lab is 'Reimagining a post COVID19' society by using digital solutions to communicate key messaging whilst partnering with the creative sector as a vehicle to reach a wider audience, via cyber- space.
Through the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund, we are working with over 870,000 small-holder farmers on the resilience building platform in community-based disease surveillance, supporting isolation centres and awareness raising.
UNDP served as technical lead to the United Nations Country Team in the development of the Zimbabwe’s socioeconomic recovery framework aligned to the global framework focusing on saving lives, protecting people, supporting economic recovery, and ensuring a cohesive, resilient communities. This document serves as the UN system recovery framework for Zimbabwe and it is already serving as a resource mobilization tool in support of the national recovery efforts.
Together with the World Bank and other UN agencies, we continue to make assessments of potential socio-economic impact of COVID19 and make recommendations and policy guidance to the recovery process.
While we do this, we must also consider ways to prevent a similar pandemic recurring. In the longer term, UNDP will look at ways to help countries to better prevent and manage such crises and ensure that the world makes full use of what we will learn from this one.
A global response now is an investment in our future.