The COVID 19 crisis is likely to have long term consequences on reducing poverty and inequality, threatening India’s impressive achievement of lifting 271 million people out of multidimensional poverty between 2006 and 2016, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented health and development crisis that jeopardizes India’s tremendous gains in reducing poverty. The epidemic is overloading vulnerable health systems and overtaxing frontline health workers. At the same time, the efforts required to contain its spread have severely impacted lives and livelihoods and stalled economic activity.
As a consequence, informal workers, people who are on the fringes, and those living in poverty are highly vulnerable to falling into poverty or facing deepening poverty, hunger, illness, homelessness and social stigma.
The crisis is likely to have long term consequences on reducing poverty and inequality. The economic slowdown is also severely impacting the informal sector which accounts for more than 85 per cent of the workforce, including tens of millions of migrant workers.
As a result, vulnerable communities are facing immense social and economic burdens that are likely to aggravate pressures on families, increase the burden of care giving on women, and increase vulnerability to gender-based violence and family violence. To mitigate the consequences of the crisis, the Government of India has taken proactive action to prevent new infections, provide care and treatment, support economic relief and ensure delivery of basic services and essential commodities, including through a USD 22.5 billion relief package.
UNDP’s COVID-19 crisis response is designed to help decision-makers look beyond recovery, towards 2030, with the Sustainable Development Goals as our compass. The response supports efforts led by the Government of India and State Governments, working in collaboration with civil society, private sector and UN partners. It encompasses UNDP’s role in technically leading the UN socioeconomic response to COVID-19 and recognizes that governments and societies face unprecedented policy, regulatory and fiscal choices as they act to save lives and set a course for a sustainable future. The choices made today, if made well, could be the tipping points that transform our societies and our planet for the better.
Strengthening Health Systems and service delivery
UNDP is helping to strengthen health systems by procuring urgently needed health and medical supplies, advising on management of biomedical waste and supporting capacity building of health workers to respond to COVID-19, based on requests from State Governments. Working in collaboration with WHO, UNDP is drawing on its extensive presence across states and leveraging its network of 700 staff that support Government health projects in 30 States.
This support includes procuring medical supplies such as ventilators and personal protective equipment, establishing real time tracking systems for managing supply chains for essential health commodities, and providing technical support on efficient management of biomedical waste in collaboration with WHO.
Mitigating social and economic impacts and uprooting inequalities
UNDP is supporting analysis of the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 to inform policy and programming and strengthening access to social protection to mitigate impacts of the crisis. In collaboration with State Governments, civil society organizations, the private sector and UN agencies, this approach is prioritizing vulnerable communities including the urban poor, tribal communities, marginalized women and youth, disadvantaged castes and groups, waste collectors, construction workers and migrants and returnees.
This support includes expanding reach of social protection schemes and entitlements to marginalized individuals and families, facilitating access to local skilling and job opportunities for vulnerable women and youth, restoring livelihoods opportunities for women microentrepreneurs and farmers’ and artisans’ collectives, generating awareness on COVID through community outreach and social media, addressing stigma and discrimination and gender-based violence, and reviewing SDG plans and indicator frameworks to account for COVID impacts.
Promoting environmentally-sensitive responses
UNDP is advocating for an environmentally-sensitive response to COVID-19 that resets towards more sustainable and inclusive growth pathways. Green recovery and resilience require promoting nature-based jobs and livelihoods, addressing linkages between nature and health, integrating climate commitments into urban planning, agriculture and land use solutions, and accelerating transition towards green energy as part of the COVID response.
UNDP’s support includes investing in rural jobs and livelihoods by promoting public works in the areas of water conservation, horticulture and animal husbandry, increasing nature-based micro-entrepreneurship opportunities for rural women and vulnerable communities, advocating for one health approaches that address links between human and animal health, improving management of biomedical waste, and supporting urban waste collectors with handling of COVID- related waste and providing them protective equipment.
Advancing digital innovations and solutions
UNDP is promoting digital tools and innovations to support analysis of the impacts of COVID, increase efficiency of health sector responses and facilitate delivery of services to communities in need. UNDP is drawing on its network of Accelerator Labs covering 78 countries to leverage cutting-edge technologies and digital tools, share intelligence and global experience and test innovative solutions with national partners.
This support includes applying digital tools to track availability of essential COVID-related commodities in health facilities and improve management of biomedical waste, using digital platforms to connect poor rural household with relief schemes, providing training on financial literacy and digital marketing to rural micro-entrepreneurs, leveraging technology for skill development and employment generation for women and young people affected by COVID, and producing digital games to raise awareness and tackle myths.