The United Nations & COVID-19 Global Health Emergency

Download the PDF version of this summary

In the midst of a devastating COVID-19 surge in India, Secretary-General Guterres announced that the United Nations stands ready to step up its support to help combat an outbreak that accounts for 46% of the world’s new coronavirus cases and is claiming the lives of 153 people per hour. Below is a top-line summary of how the UN is responding to that call to action, including WHO, UNFPA, and UNICEF collectively delivering nearly 10,000 oxygen concentrators, nearly 10 million medical masks, and more than 1.5 million face shields to some of India’s hardest hit regions.

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.

World Health Organization (WHO)

  • WHO is sending $5 million in oxygen supplies to India from its emergency supply chain (including 4,000 oxygen concentrators), has issued $4.5 million in emergency funding to support its India office work plan, and is procuring 400,000 RT-PCR tests/swab kits, as well as mobile field hospitals for the country’s most affected areas, adding up to 50 new beds to pre-existing hospitals.
  • WHO has engaged the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network and Emergency Medical Team workforce to provide technical support to the country’s government, is providing support for laboratories to meet the huge demand for testing, and has deployed more than 2,600 staff members to the pandemic response from programmes for polio and neglected tropical diseases.

UNICEF

A doctor uses an RT-PCR COVID-19 testing machine donated by UNICEF and partners in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. The machine will help ramp up testing in the state.
  • UNICEF has sent critical lifesaving supplies to help India in its battle with COVID-19, including 3,000 oxygen concentrators, 500 high flow nasal cannulas, 85 RT-PCR (COVID testing) machines, as well as diagnostic tests, and medical kits. UNICEF is also supporting the procurement and installation of 25 oxygen plants for hospitals in the Northeast and in Maharashtra, and the installation of more than 70 thermal scanners at various ports of entry countrywide.
  • UNICEF has also deployed senior-level experts to the worst hit states, such as Maharashtra, to support state and local authorities and is supporting resilience building against recurrent shocks and stresses to the health system that leave children and their families at risk. While providing urgent support to the healthcare system and supporting communities and essential workers, UNICEF has also been assisting the Government of India in ensuring critical services for the most vulnerable children continue functioning. For example, UNICEF is providing technical support to the government and partners to help ensure that 12.3 million children across 17 states are able to continue learning from home.

UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

  • UNFPA is procuring and distributing critical life-saving medical equipment and supplies to help stabilize India’s health system, including 1,200 oxygen concentrators, 25 ventilators, RT-PCR machines, & PPE. UNFPA, in addition, is conducting refresher trainings for health care workers, especially doctors and nurses working in maternity areas, on personal protection, testing suspected cases, treating patients with suspected cases, and managing confirmed COVID cases.
  • UNFPA is scaling up country-wide communications to support the Government of India’s vaccination drive comprised of creative materials, messages on COVID-19, and vaccines in different languages and different states of India, targeting the general population, along with unique messages designed for special groups such as pregnant and lactating mothers, health workers, young people, etc.

World Food Programme (WFP)

  • WFP is working closely with the Government of India to do everything it can to ensure people have access to food during this deepening emergency. WFP has piloted new technologies in India that are helping people in remote areas receive staple foods safely, including an app families can use to request delivery from local markets, as well as an automatic grain dispenser that functions like an ATM. These innovative solutions broaden the reach of food assistance, while also allowing safe social distancing.

UN Development Programme (UNDP)

  • UNDP has helped distribute PPE to nearly 35,000 health workers in 8 priority states: Delhi, Gujarat, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Chattisgarh, Uttrakand, Himachal Pradesh, and Arunachal Pradesh. UNDP also supported procurement and installation of 80 ICU ventilators and trained frontline workers on their usage in 3 states: Odisha, Assam, Jharkhand. UNDP and UNICEF are facilitating procurement and installation of 31 oxygen generation plants in 4 northeastern states: Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Nagaland.
  • To address surging quantities of waste generated by health facilities, isolation and quarantine facilities, and testing and treatment sites, UNDP India is training health workers to properly dispose of, sort, and manage waste—and adapting the country’s electronic eVIN system to digitize the process. UNDP is also improving bio-waste management in 100 of the worst-affected districts in the country.
  • UNDP India and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences launched a psycho-social counseling helpline, “iCALL,” which is providing accessible, affordable counseling services through telephonic, email, and chat-based facilities to vulnerable people in distress across 13 states. Eleven help desks and on-site counseling activities on COVID-19 prevention and business continuity have been set up by UNDP, the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the International Labour Organization (ILO)—these have benefited more than 140,000 employees.