COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Humanity needs leadership and
solidarity to defeat the coronavirus

 

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 late last year, the virus has spread to most of the countries. 

Nepal, a landlocked country aspiring to graduate from a Least Developed Country status, stands highly vulnerable to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. Heedful of its vulnerabilities, the Government of Nepal has enforced a nationwide lockdown and activated its federal, provincial and local level mechanisms to respond to the crisis. While there is an urgent need to strengthen the existing health system to handle the situation in case of any sudden surge of outbreak, standardize the quarantine facilities and provide immediate relief to the most-affected, equally important is to help the country mitigate the socio-economic impacts and prepare for a longer-term recovery.

While the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is relatively small [below 1500 as of 30 May], the secondary impact of the global pandemic is huge and it is already taking a serious toll on an economy that relies heavily on remittances, imports fueled by remittances, informal labor, and tourism revenues.

UNDP is working with the Government of Nepal and the UN Country Team to support the country's preparedness to face the mounting public health emergency, respond to the socio-economic impact of the protracted lockdown on the most vulnerable, and support longer-term recovery measures.

The fact that Nepal’s economy is largely dependent on remittance (25% of GDP), tourism (8% of GDP), agriculture (26% of GDP) and imports of essential items and supplies from outside has made the poor households and the often unskilled workers, including returnee migrants, particularly vulnerable to income losses.

Given that most of these people are outside the official social safety net, they are likely to bear the brunt of the sudden halt or slowdown of economic activities in Nepal.

UNDP response

As part of the UN family and in close coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNDP is responding to requests from national and sub-national governments to help them prepare for, respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing particularly on the most vulnerable and where they are found. While needs assessments are being drawn, our short and medium-term response will mainly translate in activities that focus on the three major areas: Health System Suppor, Socio-economic Recovery and Crisis Management and Response

“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

 

Health system support

Complementing the work of the specialized agencies to bolster health systems management and capacity, UNDP is supporting the  provincial and local governments to strengthen their health systems, including by providing much-needed medical supplies, assessment of quarantine facilities and public awareness on COVID-19. The major activites are as follows: 

● Enhancing public awareness of COVID-19 through communications [PSAs, Community level activities]
Management of quarantine facilities through monitoring and assessment and logistics support 
● Supporting frontline responders with much-needed health supplies and protective gears  

With support from EU/ECHO UNDP provided 9000 surgical masks, 3000 gloves, 2000 hand sanitizers, PPE kits & IEC materials to the local governments.

Socio-Economic Recovery

UNDP is using its extensive experience of working on early recovery, livelihood support and job creation by mobilizing cooperatives, developing enterprises and community infrastructures. Some of the key activites are as follows: 

● Rapid assessment of socio-economic impact and recovery needs 
● Short-term employment programme for workers associated with tourism sector  

Women in Pokhara are on the frontline of mask production during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has helped address the problems of shortage and possible black marketing of masks, while also giving them a decent living amidst the crisis.

Crisis management and response

UNDP will also focus on enhancing crisis response and management capacities at the sub-national level, which include communication support and skill transfer to provincial governments and municipalities. Here are some of the key activites: 

● Support the overall UN wide Preparedness and Response Plan and co-lead the Socio-Economic Recovery Cluster 
● Communications support to provincial and local governments
Live phone-in radio program aimed at helping connect people with government authorities and inform policies
● Crisis Communications training to representatives of local governments and other actors

Radio journalists at work. The Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (ACORAB) in Nepal and Community Information Network (CIN), with the support of UNDP, have launched a live phone-in radio program, which aims to help local governments address socio-economic issues/problems faced by the vulnerable people during the COVID-19 lockdown. Photo: CIN

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