The United Nations & COVID-19 Global Health Emergency

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Secretary-General Guterres stated, “COVID-19 is the greatest test” since World War II; “it is more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis.” The UN chief released a plan to counter COVID19, which emphasizes the need for countries to act in concert and outlines ways to suppress transmission of the virus, safeguard people’s lives and their livelihoods, and learn from the crisis to build back. Provided below is a snapshot of UN efforts overseas to combat COVID-19.

Provided below is a snapshot of UN efforts overseas to combat COVID-19. This edition includes information on the delivery of nearly 3 million COVID vaccine doses to Ukraine and vital FAO and WFP assistance efforts across Afghanistan.

This reference document is by no means comprehensive of all the UN’s work; it is meant to illustrate the various ways the “UN Family” confronts a global pandemic, based on both its past actions and new methods. This document will be updated regularly but please reach out if you have any questions. For further background, the United Nations has also developed a resource to monitor the latest updates.


This COVAX delivery comes at a critical time for Ukraine, where 98% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in the last three months were unvaccinated. Photo: UNICEF Ukraine.
  • Nearly 3 million doses of Moderna COVID vaccine arrived in Ukraine on November 7, delivered free of charge via the COVAX Facility. Together with the newest supply, UNICEF has now delivered 7,415,810 vaccine doses to Ukraine as part of COVAX. While every fifth Ukrainian has received at least one shot, the majority of people who are hospitalized and require critical care haven’t yet received their full course of the vaccine. With these efforts, there is now enough supply in Ukraine to administer 100,000 vaccines daily—a feat that’s happening thanks to the support of USAID, which provided $2.8 million in late October to help UNICEF procure passive cooling equipment that ensures the efficient transport and safe temporary storage of the vaccines.

UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

  • The trend in rising forced displacement continued into 2021—with global numbers now exceeding 84 million—as more people fled violence, insecurity, and the effects of climate change, according to the Mid-Year Trends report released on November 11 by UNHCR. The report, for January-June 2021, showed an increase from 82.4 million at end 2020. This resulted largely from internal displacement, with more people fleeing multiple active conflicts around the world, especially in Africa. The report also noted that COVID-19 border restrictions continued to limit access to asylum in many locations. Despite these challenges, UNHCRs mid-year results for COVID-19 multisectoral monitoring show that six months into the year, UNHCR had either reached or exceeded the half-year milestone for its 2021 targets. This includes the provision of essential healthcare services to over 4.2 million forcibly displaced and stateless persons; 11.3 million people who have accessed protection services; and almost 900,000 children and youth that have been supported with connected or home-based learning.

World Food Programme (WFP)

Each month, WFP plans to procure 25,000 metric tons of wheat flour from Afghan millers, injecting much-needed support into the local economy and getting food where it’s needed as quick as possible. Photo: WFP Afghanistan.
  • WFP continues to deliver in Afghanistan with its 75 cooperating partners across all 34 provinces despite the challenging context. Since the beginning of the year WFP has assisted 10.2 million people in Afghanistan—900,000 of whom have been directly affected by the socioeconomic impact. Due to fallout from the pandemic, a spiraling economy, drought, and years of conflict Afghanistan is quickly becoming the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. 22.8 million people—more than half the country’s population—are now facing acute food insecurity, according to the latest Integrated Phase Classification food security assessment.
  • WFP is enhancing social protection frameworks around the world while countries are coping with the impacts of COVID-19. In Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Mali, Mauritania and Zimbabwe, WFP has protected 1.5 million people from drought through its African Risk Capacity Replica Initiative.
  • WFP and partners in Zambia are educating refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Mantapala refugee camp on the benefits of being vaccinated against COVID-19. In October, WFP assisted nearly 18,000 people in the camp with four metric tons of food and $200,000 in cash transfers while adhering to COVID-19 preventative measures.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

  • FAO is providing lifesaving support and cash assistance to farmers and livestock owning households in Afghanistan that are suffering the combined impacts of drought, conflict, COVID-19, and economic crisis. More than 3.5 million people in Afghanistan will be supported this year, with FAO reaching over more than 330,000 in August and September alone. Amid worsening drought, FAO is seeking $11.4 million in urgent funding for its humanitarian response and is seeking a further $200 million for the agricultural season into 2022. FAO is now distributing wheat cultivation packages, including high quality and locally-supplied seeds, fertilizers and training. This campaign is expected to benefit 1.3 million people across 27 out of 34 provinces of the country in the coming weeks.

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

  • As part of the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign led by the Libyan National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), IOM conducted awareness-raising sessions on COVID-19 vaccines with a total of 1,986 adult migrants in four detention centers and community settings in Libya. Trained IOM community mobilizers, accompanied by medical teams provided the migrants and detention center staff with critical information on COVID-19 vaccines, including its importance, dosage, side effects and addressed questions and concerns related to the vaccination processes. By the end of the campaigns fifth week, a total of 4,370 migrants (443 females and 3,927 males) had received either Sinopharm or AstraZeneca vaccines, out of which, 274 migrants (6%) have received two doses and are fully vaccinated. Vaccines were provided and administered by NCDC.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

  • According to OCHA, the situation in Sudan remains calm but unpredictable. Food prices are rising and access to food is limited as some markets are closed due to the coup and ports that were blocked in eastern Sudan by Beja protesters. Some health services have been interrupted also, affecting the provision of routine services including immunizations. COVID-19 cases were already on the rise in Sudan prior to October 25 and testing has since been interrupted and the countrys vaccination campaign has been paused. As of November 1 2021, only 3 percent of Sudan’s 46.7 million people were vaccinated against COVID-19.