The United Nations will support the Lao Government’s preparedness and response to Covid-19 under the United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund with two UN projects approved under the Fund last week.
The Fund was launched by the UN Secretary-General to support low- and middle-income countries overcome the health and development crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and support people most vulnerable to economic hardship and social disruption.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a public health emergency but also a cause of deep socio-economic shocks which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, including the poor, the elderly, women, children, adolescents, people with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, migrants and other groups left behind. As a Least Developed Country, Lao PDR is particularly vulnerable to the global and regional disruptions caused by COVID-19. Thus, to ensure that the hard-won development gains of Lao PDR are not undermined by the impact of the pandemic, it is of the utmost importance to take early action to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Supported by Member States, the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund was launched together with the “United Nations Framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19: Shared responsibility, global solidarity and urgent action for people in need”. It will finance initiatives that enable governments and communities to: (a) tackle the health emergency; (b) address social impacts and implement economic response measures; and (c) recover better by building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies. Currently the Fund has received contributions from Denmark, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland. The financial requirements of the Fund are projected at US$ 1 billion in 2020 and will be subsequently reviewed.
Following the UN Secretary-General’s launch of the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, the Lao Government, together with the UN and other partners, has been working at full capacity to outline a collective, systemic and timely response to the rapidly unfolding COVID-19 outbreak. At the formal request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the Government of Lao PDR, the UN Country Team has been working to strengthen the national Government’s COVID-19 response capacity, developing two project proposals under the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund totaling US$ 1 million.
“Working in partnerships is essential in times of COVID-19, and for Lao PDR, the UN is a vital partner in accelerating progress towards the national development goals. The COVID-19 outbreak affected all of us, and it is important to work together to overcome these challenges starting from immediate response towards recovery. The Government of Lao PDR sees the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund as a valuable opportunity to engage the UN capacity and expertise in ensuring protection of Lao communities from COVID-19 and maintaining essential health services”, – said Mr. Maythong Thammavongsa, Director General of the International Organization Department of the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
One of the projects focuses on supporting provincial health preparedness and surge capacity for point of entry and surveillance. The project will see UN Agencies, Funds, and Programmes working with the Ministries of Public Security and Home Affairs to support provincial and district-level COVID-19 preparedness by targeting border authorities and providing training and information on COVID-19 screening. The project will also work through the Ministry of Home Affairs with district-level authorities to identify and manage quarantine and isolation centres according to the protocols developed by the Ministry of Health with WHO support. IOM and UNODC will support the training and IEC needs at the borders, while UNDP and UN-Habitat will join forces to engage with district-level authorities. The project will also be supported by UNCDF, UNICEF and UNIDO and will be carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and Ministry of Finance. The project is expected to support Lao PDR’s efforts in upholding a strong prevention strategy in reducing the impact of COVID-19, including strengthening of effective border management and enhancing infection, prevention and control capacities at the provincial level.
The second project aims at supporting essential health and nutrition services for mothers, newborns, children, and adolescents at a time of COVID-19 when the risk of disruption is high. The intervention will support the Ministry of Health to develop clear mechanisms to address the barriers for clients to access the services, including the physical (due to lockdown, etc.), financial (due to unemployment, stressed financial services) and social (fear of contacting the virus when seeking services) barriers resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the project will contribute to strengthening the safety of health facilities and development of alternate, mobile, and online service delivery. In cooperation with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Lao Women’s Union and a number of CSOs working in the area, the project will be implemented by UNFPA, UN Habitat, UNICEF and WHO, with UNAIDS contributing for specific HIV interventions.
“Successful planning of these projects highlights the value of partnerships and coordinated collective efforts across the Government Ministries and UN Country Team, and the projects’ efficient implementation depends on further multidimensional coordination. With this framing, the UN in Lao PDR aims to support the acceleration of public health preparedness, further contribute to the socio-economic analysis and develop meaningful protection and recovery interventions to support those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic”, – said Ms. Sara Sekkenes, the UN Resident Coordinator in Lao PDR.