Updates from the field #12: A united front against COVID-19

Photo of Venezuelan man being registered to be transferred to the local shelter.
Photo: UNHCR

UN teams worldwide are uniting with governments, implementing partners and the private sector to fight COVID-19 together. Below, we highlight some of the global responses as of 29 May 2020.


Brazil currently has more than 390,000 cases and more than 24,000 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures. The UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Niky Fabiancic, is working with national and local authorities on the health and socioeconomic response.  

The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) is purchasing 10 million COVID-19 tests and is helping the government to identify global suppliers for urgently needed medical material. At the local level, PAHO is supporting health professionals with distance learning platforms. Through funds provided by the local governments, the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) purchased personal protective equipment for health teams in several cities, including 800 overalls, 6,000 masks, 14,000 non-surgical gloves, 1,500 safety glasses, 600 face shields. 

The UN team is also working with local authorities in the Amazon region to protect indigenous peoples and migrants, especially those coming from neighbouring Venezuela.  The International Organization for Migration (IOM) made the first donation of more than US$20,000 in medicine and supplies for migrants from Venezuela who are receiving COVID-19 treatment. IOM's mobile health units serve around 40 refugees, migrants and locals of the Amazon region daily. They receive free medical consultations, hand sanitizer and other protection equipment.

IOM Indigenous health conversation round table.

Photo: IOM

IOM also organized a COVID-19 information session with the Brazilian military and partners working with indigenous peoples and migrants in the Amazon.

On the border with Peru and Bolivia, the UN and partners donated 1.5 tonnes of food to more than 250 migrants who were in transit and were unable to leave Brazil due to the COVID-19-led closure of borders.  

PAHO is providing a COVID-19 prevention course for migrants and refugees with UN Women’s support. UN Women is also working with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) on specialized police stations that serve women and support centres for women who have suffered of domestic violence.  

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is also providing COVID-19 protection equipment and handwashing stations to migrant communities, including indigenous peoples coming from Venezuela, benefiting around 3,000 people. UNICEF is also providing cash assistance for 1,000 families. 

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second-most affected city, UNICEF and the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat) have donated 250,000 soap bars to local authorities, which were distributed to the ten largest informal settlements. Rio also saw its iconic Christ the Redeemer statue light up this week with messages that highlight the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially post-COVID-19. This was part of a Humanity Lab Foundation campaign backed by the UN team.  

A new music video was released with artists Iza [pronounced EEEZA], from Brazil, and Maejor [pronounced MAJOR], from the United States. The video has reached nearly 3 million views in a week. It features UNHCR-supported refugees and calls on young people to be agents of change for all people and our shared planet. 

Democratic Republic of the Congo 

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there are currently more than 2,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 68 deaths.

The UN team, led by David McLachlan-Karr there has supported the Government and the people to prepare around respond to the health, humanitarian and socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic. WHO, at the local level, has provided medicine, as well as motorcycles and fuel for contact tracing. More than 70 experts are working at the frontline of the health response in coordination, surveillance, support to labs, data gathering, contact tracing, community engagement and logistics.

UNHCR is helping to construct quarantine sites and medical checkpoints. It is also donating medicine and equipment such as masks, installing more than 2,000 handwashing stations, providing over 65,000 soap bars and ensuring the disinfection of nearly 1,600 dormitories. UNHCR also trained medical staff in areas hosting refugees and internally displaced people. For its part, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) supported the deployment of a local handwashing system using solar energy in several parts of Kinshasa.

To address gender-based violence during lockdown, UN Women is working with the national police. The UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, and UNDP are providing personal protection equipment to police and prison staff, transforming containers in central prisons, to separate suspected COVID-19 cases among detainees. UNICEF is also working with national community associations to produce one million masks to be distributed to vulnerable communities. 

The DRC’s Minister of State, Minister of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education (EPST), Willy Bakonga launched the country’s first radio-based learning programme that will be broadcast on Radio Okapi, with the support of UNICEF.

Photo: UNICEF/Sibylle Desjardins

The UN team is bolstering its communications efforts—especially through the use of radio—to prevent the spread of the disease. MONUSCO’s Radio Okapi – with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF – was the first media in the country to provide education through radio, airing 14 weekly hours of school programming for 22 million children at home. UNICEF is also helping the Ministry of Education to implement distance learning by distributing learning booklets for all grades, among other methods.


Moving now to Honduras, which currently has over 4400 cases and 188 deaths due to COVID-19, according to WHO figures.  

To address the impacts of the pandemic, the UN team, led by Resident Coordinator a.i. Martín Arévalo, presented yesterday its COVID-19 plan with the Government. The plan was developed by the Humanitarian Country Team with 40 national and international organizations. The plan requires US$99,2 million to benefit approximately three million Hondurans who are most in need. The plan seeks to slow down transmission and strengthen health services.

Mental health is a priority! You are not alone. Graphic shows an animated girl wearing a face mask with mental health-related terms written throughout her hair.

Photo: Illustration by Diana Rivera for UNICEF

The focus is to mitigate the impact on livelihoods and promote human rights, strengthening the protection of vulnerable groups.  

The team is also working to “recover better,” identifying long-term solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

As of today, more than 740,000 people have benefited through the response actions already promoted by the Humanitarian Network, which is part of the COVID-19 plan presented yesterday. 

Mr. Arévalo said that the crisis is testing all leaders and the entire humanity, and this requires decisive, coordinated and innovative action that benefits all. Our priority as United Nations is to protect lives with a response that is inclusive, transparent and responsible, he said. 


A plane carrying 12 tonnes of humanitarian aid to provide food and improve access to safe water for thousands of families is scheduled to arrive in Venezuela on Friday, 28 May, as part of the United Nations humanitarian response. With this shipment, the United Nations has brought more than 100 tons of humanitarian assistance to Venezuela since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to generous funding from the international community. This UNICEF shipment includes 127,000 water purification tablets, 18 water tanks and 40,000 nutritional support packages.  It complements UNICEF's response, which has already delivered some 90 tonnes of supplies to 189 health institutions, including 38 sentinel hospitals, clinics and community health centres in 13 states. 

"This is the second humanitarian shipment from the United Nations in support of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its socioeconomic impact in Venezuela. These vital supplies will benefit thousands of families and will be distributed to health centres and the most vulnerable communities," said Peter Grohmann, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Venezuela. He thanked the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany for its efforts and for providing the transportation for this life-saving shipment. 

Venezuela has over 1200 confirmed cases and 11 deaths due to COVID-19, according to the latest WHO figures, with deep social and economic impacts. 

UN entities involved in this initiative
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations Human Settlements Programme
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Children’s Fund
United Nations Office for Project Services
World Health Organization

Goals we are supporting through this initiative