Humanity needs leadership and solidarity to defeat COVID-19
The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War Two. Since its emergence in Asia late last year, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica. Cases are rising daily in Africa the Americas, and Europe.
Countries are racing to slow the spread of the disease by testing and treating patients, carrying out contact tracing, limiting travel, quarantining citizens, and cancelling large gatherings such as sporting events, concerts, and schools.
The pandemic is moving like a wave—one that may yet crash on those least able to cope.
But COVID-19 is much more than a health crisis. By stressing every one of the countries it touches, it has the potential to create devastating social, economic and political crises that will leave deep scars.
We are in uncharted territory. Many of our communities are unrecognizable from even a week ago. Dozens of the world’s greatest cities are deserted as people stay indoors, either by choice or by government order. Across the world, shops, theatres, restaurants and bars are closing.
Every day, people are losing jobs and income, with no way of knowing when normality will return. Small island nations, heavily dependent on tourism, have empty hotels and deserted beaches. The International Labour Organization estimates that 25 million jobs could be lost.
Every country needs to act immediately to prepare, respond, and recover. The UN system will support countries through each stage, with a focus on the most vulnerable.
Drawing on our experience with other outbreaks such as Ebola, HIV, SARS, TB and malaria, as well as our long history of working with the private and public sector, UNDP will help countries to urgently and effectively respond to COVID-19 as part of its mission to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and build resilience to crises and shocks.
“We are already hard at work, together with our UN family and other partners, on three immediate priorities: supporting the health response including the procurement and supply of essential health products, under WHO’s leadership, strengthening crisis management and response, and addressing critical social and economic impacts.” UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner
COVID-19: The Nigeria Response
Nigeria braces itself to be part of what is likely to be a third wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, where the coronavirus will interact with low healthcare infrastructure and many pre-existing fragilities. From preliminary macro and micro social economic analysis, the COVID 19 Pandemic is expected to place immense pressure on Nigeria’s healthcare system and could result in a serious economic and fiscal pressure. Proactive measures need to be taken to prevent, prepare, respond and cushion communities from the socio-economic impact of the Pandemic.
As the spread of the coronavirus intensifies, Nigeria’s services, trade and financial sectors that contribute over 30 percent of the GDP would suffer significant disruptions. Contraction in these sectors could result in significant job losses both in the formal and informal job markets. This could be a severe blow and could be a threat to instability as youth unemployment or underemployment is approximated to be at 55 percent high. Consequently, in a country that is overwhelmingly tied to the informal sector, the COVID-19 pandemic will affect livelihood and spending patterns, which in turn could have a negative impact on the economy and wellbeing of the people.
Implications of an outbreak in the country’s protracted conflict and security zones of the North-East could be devastating. It is within this humanitarian and development context that the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic looms largest, particularly for its 1.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the three states (Borno, Adamawa and Yobe).
It will require a whole society approach to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to cushion the potentially devastating impact it may have on vulnerable people and economies. Therefore enhancing trust and cooperation, within and among communities, and between people, regions, states and the Federal Government is paramount for a sustained fight against the pandemic.
Planning for post COVID-19
In the midst of the evolving pandemic, the critical question is how affected communities will bounce back and in a sustainable manner recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The economic distress associated with the pandemic, health implications to those affected especially the most vulnerable in the community, strain on service delivery infrastructure and the societal cost in terms of well-being could be enormous.
For Nigeria, like any other country affected by the crisis, recovery will require investment in innovative approaches for restoration of health systems; co-creation of culturally sensitive social-protection mechanisms, peace and cohesion building measures that integrate recovery of lost livelihood. A conflict-sensitive approach in such a case will be critical in the identification of risk and opportunities to ensure strategies do not worsen existing (latent) fragility, but rather help strengthen social cohesion where possible.
Any post-COVID-19 recovery strategy will need to re-establish the conditions for a quick return to a path of economic growth, improved social contract, and overall human development that can foster more inclusive societies in the future. In addition, the survivors and others directly affected by the coronavirus must be assisted to overcome possible stigmatization, regain their dignity and the for affected communities, supported to recover their livelihoods.
The Nigeria One UN COVID-19 Response
On 23 March 2020, the national COVID-19 leadership of Nigeria met with the UN leadership and key bilateral donors to discuss the unfolding emergency. They agreed to adopt the "Four Ones" guiding principles of engagement for national authorities and partners to respond to the pandemic:
One agreed National COVID-19 Multi-Sectoral Pandemic Response Plan;
One COVID-19 National Coordinating Authority with a broad-based multi-sector mandate;
One COVID-19 M&E system for tracking and reporting progress; and
One COVID-19 Financing and Investment Platform.
Within this framework, the Nigeria One UN COVID-19 Response is designed to serve within the One COVID-19 Financing and Investment Platform, through which the different stakeholders (including UN, multilateral and bilateral donors, private sector, foundations and philanthropies) can channel their financial contributions to the multisectoral efforts of the Nigeria Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
The joint UN Strategy uses the arrangement to support the rapid implementation of Nigeria’s National COVID-19 Multi-sectoral Pandemic Response Plan and individual donors and partners enter a bi-lateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or Contribution Agreement with the Basket Fund to establish the basis of the relationship and cooperation. A dedicated Fund and Project Management structure is in place and managed by UNDP. The structure will act as the secretariat to the Project Board and manage accountability, disbursement, procurement of services and goods, if required. The Project Board will regularly assess the progress of activities supported by the NIgeria One UN COVID-19 Response. The UN shall take all appropriate measures to make public donor contributions to the NIgeria One UN COVID-19 Response and project outputs, as well as ensure public reporting of decisions, for transparency. The contributions to the NIgeria One UN COVID-19 Response shall be subjected to the internal and external auditing procedures provided for in the financial regulations, rules and directives of the UN Agency managing the joint response.