The growing crisis of COVID-19 threatens to hit developing countries disproportionately, not only as a short-term health crisis, but also as a devastating social and economic crisis over the coming months and years.
The expectation of loss of income exceeds US $ 220 billion in developing countries. With about 55% of the entire global population without access to social protection, these losses are expected to reverberate in society, with an impact on education, human rights and, in the most severe cases, basic food security and nutrition.
Hospitals with limited resources and fragile health systems are expected to be overburdened. This could worsen with a peak in the number of cases, since up to 75% of the population in the least developed countries do not have access to soap and water.
Other social conditions, such as precarious urban planning and overpopulation in some cities, deficient waste management services, and even traffic jams that prevent access to health posts, can contribute to the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.
“This pandemic is a health crisis. But not just a health crisis. For huge extensions of the globe, the pandemic will leave deep scars, ”said Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). "Without the support of the international community, we run the risk of a massive setback in the progress made in the past two decades, and of an entire generation lost, if not in terms of lives, in terms of rights, opportunities and dignity."
Working in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNDP is supporting countries in preparing (for), responding (a) and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on the most vulnerable.
UNDP is already working to support health systems in countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Djibouti, El Salvador, Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Nigeria, Paraguay, Panama, Serbia, Ukraine and Vietnam.
The COVID-19 Rapid Response Mechanism, led by UNDP, recently launched, is based on existing and capitalized resources with an initial contribution of US $ 20 million. This mechanism disburses through a fast-track system that allows UNDP teams to offer immediate assistance to countries for their national responses. UNDP anticipates a minimum of US $ 500 million to support 100 countries.
Call to action
UNDP has already called for action for the international community to think beyond the immediate impact of COVID-19. The organization has emphasized the need for three priority actions: releasing resources to help stem the spread of the virus, supporting response during the outbreak itself, and making resources available to prevent economic collapse in developing countries.
As an immediate response, UNDP has established a supportive support system that is already benefiting China and other Asian countries in strengthening their health systems. This includes help obtaining medical supplies, boosting digital technologies and securing payment for healthcare workers.
At the same time, UNDP will support countries in curbing the spread of the virus and promoting social protection for vulnerable populations, promoting comprehensive government and social response to complement efforts in the health sector.
In the longer term, UNDP will work with countries to assess the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to take urgent recovery measures to minimize long-term impact, particularly on vulnerable and marginalized groups, in addition to supporting faster recovery of society.
Combating COVID-19 and its impact will require partners to act through complex and uncertain systems, sectors and contexts. UNDP is operating fully in 170 countries and territories, focused on responding to COVID-19, mobilizing all of its assets to respond to this unprecedented challenge.