As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has taken steps to help the region manage the crisis more effectively.

The developmental organisation has collaboratively been working with the governments of the Caribbean to develop a COVID-19 Response programme designed to help the restart the region’s economies. The initiative, entitled “eFUTURE is now. Jobs. Businesses. Lives.”, recognizes that for many countries in the Eastern Caribbean, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will reinforce existing social and economic vulnerabilities. The UNDP programme seeks to provide relevant support and resources to address vulnerabilities.

Resident Representative for UNDP in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Mr. Ugo Blanco commented on the programme, stating, “UNDP’s response programme combines urgent action with quick results, strategic planning, data analytics and long-term impact. An urgent response should not be the only answer to tackle the pandemic.  An effective response must be driven by solidarity, science and human rights, whilst focusing on the most vulnerable people.”

The programme consists of three main pillars: “addressing the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19” (pillar 1), “inclusive and multi-sectoral crisis management and response” (pPillar 2) and “resilient health systems to respond to COVID-19, including health procurement support” (pillar 3).

So far, each pillar of the programme has achieved a number of milestones. One such milestone under pillar 1 includes the completion of the Human and Economic Assessment of Impact (HEAT) Report series, conducted by the United Nations Sub-Regional Team in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

The report series formed part of the combined offer from the UN system to support countries in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme, UNICEF and UN Women, the publications model a number of possible impacts on economic growth, poverty and government finances and identifies and examines a range of relevant interventions and strategic recommendations needed to promote relief and resilience in the Caribbean.

Additionally, in keeping with pillar 2 objectives, UNDP has so far provided micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the various territories with grant support totalling US$134,000 — “This funding is intended to help these businesses digitize their operations to better thrive in this new highly technological age,” stated Blanco. He further added, “some territories have also received technical support to help improve their capacity to produce PPE, stimulating both the manufacturing industry and improving the capacity of the healthcare system.”

UNDP has also been working with governments and key stakeholders to provide support for many of essential services and frontline workers under Pillar 3, by sourcing high-quality personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessary healthcare tools.

“The goal is to enable governments to effectively respond to their respective nations’ needs, by helping them overcome the severe disruptions in the global supply chain for key healthcare and ancillary supplies and equipment crucial to the crisis response,” Blanco said.  

“UNDP’s extensive logistics experience in the health sector procurement helps to ensure quality assurance, products from reputable suppliers and manufacturers, as well as efficient, timely and cost-effective procurement.”

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