UNDP’s response in Ukraine
In Ukraine, the United Nations Development Programme acted to support the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic from the very first days of the crisis. On 17 March, just over two weeks after the first case of the COVID-19 disease was confirmed in the country, the government imposed a strict set of quarantine measures, including closing the country’s borders and requiring citizens to stay at home, only being allowed to go outside to buy food and medicine.
With the country under quarantine, UNDP mobilized its partner networks contributed to the immediate COVID-19 response, providing information leaflets via a housing improvements project that reached around 1.8 million people. Disinfectant and personal protective equipment was provided to medical workers and police in eastern Ukraine, and two advisors on strategic communication were deployed to the Cabinet of Ministers and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In April, UNDP Ukraine also initiated monitoring on access to public information, with the focus on the COVID-19 outbreak response at the local level. Work has also begun on integrating aspects of coronavirus-related stigma and discrimination to the agency’s work through the Ombudsperson’s regional network.
UNDP helped the government set up Crisis Coordination Management Units, under the Prime-Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with technical coordination by the Vice-Prime-Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration. Throughout this project, UNDP will support the government of Ukraine in providing a coordinated, efficient and inclusive response to the COVID-19 crisis, leaving no one behind.
UNDP Ukraine also published a research paper on how local authorities are publishing information about protective measures against COVID-19, as in the current crisis it is vital that local authorities respond to people’s requests for information in a timely manner, and regularly publish information on protective measures against COVID-19 on their official websites.
UNDP then launched a campaign to encourage solidarity and kindness during coronavirus pandemic, and a joint initiative with the independent internet publication platfor.ma to help young women and men aged 14 to 22 to cope with self-isolation, social distancing and quarantine restrictions while staying at home, via the monthly Instagram challenge #bemyquarantine_UA. Also, UNDP organized a hackathon called the #HackCorona Challenge in partnership with the Ministry of Digital Transformation. The initiative aimed to identify the best tech-based solutions for mitigating and addressing the challenges caused by COVID-19.
By May, as the government started to relax quarantine restrictions, UNDP together with UN Women and FAO conducted a survey into the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in Ukraine. The survey is to measure the impact of the pandemic on the people of Ukraine, their businesses, and local economies, and will be used to conceive policy options and response measures for the government’s consideration.
UNDP continued its collaboration with the Donetsk Chamber of Commerce, assisting MSMEs in overcoming the impact of COVID-19 crisis by delivering online consultations. UNDP helped ten businesses from conflict-affected eastern Ukraine, previously supported by the agency with business grants, to launch online stores selling products from coffee and honey, to linen, home décor and souvenirs.
And under the UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, UNDP in Ukraine purchased video communications equipment for the Main Department of the State Emergency Service (SES) of Ukraine so that it could conduct meetings online without exposing the department’s staff to added risk of infection by the coronavirus.
The most recent UNDP initiative to help improve the conditions for ordinary Ukrainians is through a Chatbot the organization developed in partnership with the Ukraine Chamber of Commerce. The chatbot can respond to user queries about ways for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It can also produce pre-filled force majeure certificates and forms to present to landlords and banks.
It is clear that the pandemic is more than just a public health challenge: It will have major mid- and long-term impacts on reforms, recovery and peacebuilding in eastern Ukraine, and on the prospects for moving towards sustainable development and achieving the SDGs. As the situation develops, UNDP will therefore redouble its efforts to address Ukraine’s socio-economic challenges, particularly those of the most vulnerable in society.