Updates from the field #40: UN teams carry on the battle against COVID-19
02 June 2021
UN country teams worldwide are continuing the fight against COVID-19 by stepping up efforts to support governments in their response and recovery efforts, including the vaccination efforts via the COVAX Facility.
The UN team continues supporting authorities to address the health crisis, with technical support and medical equipment, especially targeting the most vulnerable groups by providing food assistance and hygiene kits. In partnership with the European Union, the United States and WHO provided 250 oxygen concentrators to health authorities. Our UN team is fighting the battle against misinformation, working with partners to disseminate science-based information, including through the Secretary-General’s “Verified” campaign. UNHCR shared information to boost vaccination in eight languages for asylum-seekers, refugees, and other displaced population. Through the Secretary General’s “Recover Better Fund” UNIDO is supporting small and medium enterprises to keep up sales and protect jobs by shifting production to medical supplies, most of them made by women. For its part, WFP continues to provide food assistance to people affected by COVID-19, distributing take-home rations for 55,000 school children and kitchen helpers across the country.
The UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo is supporting authorities to address the multiple impacts of the pandemic, with WHO as the crucial technical lead on the health front. The team came together around risk communication, community support and engagement, and more recently, boosting oxygen supply. Since June 2020, over 1,400 local community health workers have been trained. UN team and authorities visited 2.2 million households, screening 280,000 people for COVID-19, including establishing follow-up with pregnant mothers, with more than 67,000 identified as having COVID-19 signs and symptoms. The team is actively distributing locally produced masks and promoting their usage at community level as the most cost-effective non-pharmaceutical intervention against COVID-19. The UN team brought together 400 representatives from government, private sector, donors and over 400 civil society organizations to design, implement and monitor a collective plan of action for COVID-19 response. Through this approach, more than 50 million people have been engaged in disseminating preventive messages. Also, half a million Muslim leaders [Imams] engaged in messaging through nearly 240,000 mosques. The UN team’s social media campaign to counter misinformation has recorded nearly 74 million views.
And our UN team in India continues to provide support for health-related equipment and supplies. This includes 72 oxygen generating plants; 13,000 oxygen concentrators; auxiliary beds and testing facilities, with 400,000 COVID-19 testing kits procured and 85 testing machines installed in labs across the country. The UN team is also supporting migrants and vulnerable groups, setting up helplines for psychosocial support and information on social welfare and livelihood opportunities. Our team is also supporting authorities with guidance on the care of children who have lost both parents due to the pandemic. Most of this support is being provided by WHO, UNICEF, the UNHCR and UNDP. Our UN Resident Coordinator in India Renata Dessallien said
“...that this ruthless COVID-19 wave has caused unfathomable suffering and loss for the people of India.”
She flagged that despite the heavy burden of the crisis, the people of India have responded with extraordinary acts of altruism, selflessness, courage, ingenuity and mutual help. She added that the UN team in India stands with the people and Government, providing surge support for the health emergency as well as for the psycho-social and economic fallout.
The UN Country Team in Indonesia, led by UN Resident Coordinator Valerie Julliand, is supporting the national vaccination campaign to inoculate 181 million people against COVID-19 by March 2022. UNDP developed an application called SMILE with the Ministry of Health for the real-time monitoring of vaccine cold chain logistics and storage temperatures via a smart mobile device. And WHO is providing cross-cutting support, including to the country’s administration of more than 22 million vaccine doses by 10 May, the full vaccination of more than 1.3 million health workers, and the organization of online training in occupational health and safety for health workers. For its part, UNICEF has developed a chatbot to answer parents’ questions about children’s nutrition as COVID-19 is limiting access to medical centres and is working with the Ministry of Education and Culture for a safe return to school. On advocacy and outreach, the UN team is also creating materials in Indonesian to combat misinformation and boost vaccine confidence.
Faced with the low COVID-19 vaccination turnout, authorities in South Sudan are boosting vaccination campaign efforts, with the support of our UN team on the ground. According to official figures over 6,400 vaccines have been administered so far, with over 126,000 doses still pending. The UN team has been helping authorities to accelerate the vaccine rollout plan and transport over 62,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to 12 additional centres in the capital Juba and over 20 vaccination facilities in other parts of the country. For their part, the UN Mission in South Sudan and World Food Programme are supporting the airlifting of these vaccines to several areas, while the World Health Organization and UNICEF are working closely with health authorities in a detailed vaccination plan, also training health care workers to accelerate vaccination efforts.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
The UN team in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has 25 staff members from five agencies supporting authorities to restore a semblance of normalcy following the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano. The work is progressively shifting from providing lifesaving aid to recovering better, also boosting preparedness with this next hurricane season. Of the 23,000 displaced persons, more than 4,000 are accommodated in shelters and more than 18,000 in private homes. More than 830 households with displaced persons received texts for cash assistance under cash-transfer relief programme by WFP, with the private sector and local authorities. WFP is also recruiting and paying salaries for 60 voluntary logistics workers. Formal education is also re-opening and UNICEF and authorities are supporting online learning for some students and face-to-face education for over 3,000 students in nearly 60 newly established learning hubs. The UN team’s efforts continue preventing the spread of COVID-19. Only around one third of our US$29.2 million Funding Appeal is currently funded, with more than $9 million repurposed, mobilized and pledged. A recent pledge of over $3 million by the United States will further support ongoing efforts for logistics, food security, water and sanitation and health. In collaboration with the Office of the Resident Coordinator, OCHA has started to coordinate business contributions, for the response and relief efforts. A joint team from the UN Environment Programme and OCHA has also finished an environmental assessment to support the national plan to safely cleanup ashes, while boosting access to clean water, food security and improving environmental health.
The UN team in Thailand, led by Resident Coordinator Gita Sabharwal, is actively supporting authorities’ vaccine rollout process, with WHO and UNICEF playing key roles. This includes upgrading and renovating laboratories, procuring equipment for local development of vaccines and boosting training and capacity to enable vaccination. The UN team has also been sharing technology to improve electronic health records as part of the national COVID-19 vaccine reporting system, including with digital vaccine certificates. We are also actively engaged with communities to address COVID-19 misinformation, or “infodemic”, boosting vaccine uptake with campaigns that have reached over 26 million people so far. Targeted campaigns are also reaching migrants and people in prison settings, so the vaccination effort leaves no one behind. As of this week, over 2.3 million vaccine doses have been administered, 65 per cent of them are first shots. The country aims to cover 70 per cent of the population by the end of this year. Thailand has not joined COVAX at this stage but has relied on other bilateral agreements. The country has committed to improve local and regional vaccine supply through a technology-transfer agreement to produce nationally the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Armenia received its second batch of more than 50,000 COVAX-backed vaccines. This complements the arrival of 24,000 doses on 28 March, with the UN team supporting the national vaccination campaign that kicked off last month. Nearly 20,000 people have been vaccinated using COVAX-backed vaccines and other doses obtained from other bilateral arrangements.
Chile welcomed yesterday the conclusion of an electoral process through which citizens elected their representatives for the Constitutional Convention, mayors and municipal councils and, for the first time, regional governments. In a statement, the UN team said that through this historically important act, citizens have expressed their will to build a common future, with this civic spirit reaffirming Chile's commitment to a solid and inclusive democracy. The UN team also highlights the historic gender parity in this constituent process and commends the allocation of 17 seats to members of ten indigenous peoples, with an additional quota for people with disabilities. This inaugurates an opportunity to reaffirm the commitments assumed by Chile in human rights and to accelerate the achievements towards sustainable and inclusive development, the UN team states, reaffirming continuous support to these efforts.
Colombia received its fourth batch of nearly over half a million doses that arrived in the country, completing over a million doses scheduled to arrive in the country via COVAX Facility, complementing other bilateral agreements. This will help Colombia continue advancing its national vaccination scheme, with over 8 million doses applied so far, over 3 million corresponding to second doses.
Several batches of COVAX-backed vaccines to beat COVID-19 arrived in Latin America and the Caribbean. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, while the UN team supports authorities to recover from the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano, the Government also received over 21,000 doses. Also in the Caribbean, 21,000 doses of vaccines arrived in Grenada. Meanwhile, authorities in El Salvador received 96,000 doses of vaccines. In South America, Argentina received two batches of COVAX-backed vaccines, totaling over 860,000 this week alone, and Bolivia received its third shipment with over 100,000 doses. All these COVAX-backed vaccines – now totaling nearly 14 million in Latin America and the Caribbean alone— entail global, regional and country-level efforts from the UN and our partners to boost national vaccination schemes—a crucial step to recover better from this pandemic.
In Namibia, the second batch of COVAX-backed AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines arrived to support the national vaccination campaign. The 43,000 doses were purchased by Namibia as a self-financing country, with UNICEF supporting the safe delivery of the vaccines. This brings the total number of COVAX-backed doses to 67,000. Our UN team, especially through UNICEF and the World Health Organization, continues to support authorities to intensify the vaccination campaign to ensure that all Namibians are vaccinated. This is also a crucial steppingstone for a better recovery. The UN team has also repurposed US$4 million to address the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.
And in the Philippines our UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez, continues supporting authorities’ COVID-19 response, pooling capacities, technology offer and resources in support of a successful vaccination campaign. Of the 4.5 million vaccine doses committed to the country under the COVAX Facility, 60 per cent have arrived so far, most of them in May. Since the rollout began early in March, over 2 million people have been vaccinated, including over half a million who received their second dose. The UN team is providing equipment, including mobile storage units, generators, and prefabricated offices and transport support to move medical supplies. The UN team is offering cold chain management equipment, including specialized cold chain vehicles, biosafety refrigerators, and ultra-low temperature freezers, especially to make sure that the poorest areas of the country have the needed vaccination coordination capacity.