United Nations Bangladesh COVID-19 Situation Report #1



The COVID-19 crisis has elicited an unprecedented response from the United Nations. On 31 March 2020, the UN Secretary General warned that the coronavirus pandemic is “the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War and the one that needs a stronger and more effective response that is only possible in solidarity if everybody come together and if we forget political games and understand that it is humankind that is at stake”. He called for “the magnitude of the response (to) match the scale of the crisis - large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive, with country and international responses being guided by the World Health Organization”. On 30 March 2020, WHO’s Director-General emphasized the importance of respect, dignity and welfare of all people in the implementation of COVID-19 outbreak mitigation measures, and the need to ensure the welfare of people who have lost their income and are in desperate need of food, sanitation and other essential services.

On 12 March Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissionerfor Refugees in a joint statement noted that the “…health of every person is linked to the health of the most marginalised members of the community…This means overcoming existing barriers to affordable, accessible health care, and tackling long-ingrained differential treatment based on income, gender, geography, race and ethnicity, religion or social status.” Echoing the same need for solidarity, on 31 March Qu Dongyu, Tedros Ghebreyesus and Roberto Azevedo, Directors-General of FAO, WHO and WTO in a joint statement urged countries to take care to ensure that any trade-related measures do not disrupt the food supply chain. “Millions of people around the world depend on international trade for their food security and livelihoods. As countries move to enact measures aiming to halt the accelerating COVID-19 pandemic, care must be taken to minimise potential impacts on the food supply or unintended consequences on global trade and food security… Consumers, in particular the most vulnerable, must continue to be able to access food within their communities under strict safety ”2 .
In Bangladesh,the same spirit of solidarity and concern for food security was echoed in the speech of the Prime Minister, Honorable Sheikh Hasina, who announced measures to protect the most vulnerable groups in the country and to ensure food security for them.

The global response to the crisis comes with significant financing requirements. In less than two months the United Nations system has prepared and launched several global initiatives to fund different aspects of the response. On 3 February 2020, WHO launched the global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan with a resource requirement of USD675 million for February-April 2020. Of this amount USD61.5 million were for WHO’s urgent preparedness and response activities for February-April 2020.3 As of 3 April, USD274.1 million had been received.

On March 25, 2020 the United Nation launched a USD2.0 billion Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) for April-December 2020. The plan aggregates the relevant COVID-19 appeals of WFP, WHO, IOM, UNDP, UNFPA, UN-Habitat, UNHCR, UNICEF, and NGOs. It complements the plans developed by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The GHRP is articulated around three strategic priorities: (i) to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and decrease morbidity and mortality; (ii) to decrease the deterioration of human assets and rights, social cohesion, and livelihoods; and (iii) to protect, assist and advocate for refugees, internally displaced people, migrants and host communities particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.4 The appeal includes USD255 million for the refugees and internally displaced persons response. 5 To start off the GHRP, Mark Lowcock, the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, released USD60 million from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund.6 On 31 March 2020, the United Nations launched a plan to lessen the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on countries and people around the world. The United Nations Secretary General noted that “This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies – and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries.”7 Alongside this plan, the United Nations Secretary General established a United Nations inter-agency funding mechanism, the United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, to help support low and middle-income programme countries overcome the health and development challenges caused by the pandemic and to support those most vulnerable to economic hardship and social disruption. With a target of USD1 billion for April-December 2020, the multi-purpose trust fund will focus on three objectives of (i) tackling the health emergency; (ii) focusing on the social impact and economic response and recovery and (iii) helping countries recover better.

While a financing strategy is being developed to ensure complementarity between the above financing mechanisms and to ensure efficient channeling of funds from the global level to the country level, resource mobilization efforts are also on-going at the country level.