Business guide COVID-19 - Last update: 8 April 2020


Overview of the crisis

“Countries battling the pandemic at home are rightly prioritizing people living in their own communities. But the hard truth is they will be failing to protect their own people if they do not act now to help the poorest countries protect themselves. No one is safe until everyone is safe.”

António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-Genera


On 11 March 2020, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 was a pandemic. WHO is calling all partners to seize the window of opportunity and act immediately to assist all countries to rapidly detect, diagnose and prevent the further spread of the virus.

The world is facing an unprecedented challenge that affects people, communities and economies everywhere. The COVID-19 pandemic is above all a health crisis that requires decisive action to suppress the spread of the virus. However, it also has significant socio-economic implications that are particularly devastating to micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

WHO has developed a Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP) to help stop further transmission of COVID-19 and to mitigate the impact of the outbreak in all countries. The SPRP takes what has been learned so far about the virus and translates that knowledge into strategic action that can guide the efforts of all national and international partners when developing context-specific national and regional operational plans.

Complementing the WHO SPRP, the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan is designed to fight the virus in the world’s poorest countries and address the needs of the most vulnerable. Coordinated by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, it brings together existing appeals from the WHO and other UN partners.

The UN Secretary-General report Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 provides further detail as to how the private sector can contribute.

The United Nations calls on all businesses and corporations to take three primary actions:

  • Adhere to health and safety guidelines and provide economic cushions to workers, including through ensuring worker safety and social distancing and secure wages for those working from home.
  • Provide financial and technical support to governments by contributing to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
  • Repurpose their facilities and business plans to focus on meeting the needs of this crisis.

This Guide offers companies an overview of how the private sector can join with the UN to take collective action to stem the pandemic.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit