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Role of United Nations in Covid-19

Authored by Satvica Dixit

Keywords: Covid-19, Global Pandemic, UN, WHO, Response fund, guidelines, strategic plan. Vaccines, Hygiene kits.


The United Nations came into existence in 1945 just after World War II ended to prevent any future adversities or war between the countries. It was established to maintain international peace, friendly relations among countries and to fight with the threat faced by the world at large Currently, the huge menace that the world is facing is in the form of the pandemic “Covid-19” and the UN is uphill struggling to suppress this as quickly as possible.

The Covid-19 has created havoc in the world when it started affecting everyone around the globe. It is something not limited to the borders of the specific country and spreading vehemently and thus an intergovernmental organization like the UN needed to initiate the world-wide response. One of the UN’s special agencies known as the World Health Organisation (WHO) which was specially designed to deal with the health problems around the world has dealt and is rigorously dealing with this pandemic and helping people by numerous measures.


At the conception of Covid-19 around January 2020 when it started spreading like fire affecting other countries as well, WHO took this very seriously and prepared a strategic plan to address the issue. Under this, the WHO published the guidance known as “Global Surveillance for human infection with novel coronavirus” for the Member States to help implement new surveillance mechanisms for detecting the Corona virus and to facilitate the reporting of cases. On 30 January 2020, the WHO Director-General announced that the outbreak of 2019-nCoV constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and will be regarded as a “Global Pandemic”. WHO in collaboration with UN Crisis Management Team established the COVID-19 Supply Chain System (CSCS) under which essential supplies are provided to the prone countries and areas wherever requested.

The UN also released a Global Humanitarian Response Plan for the 50 most vulnerable and poor countries. This plan was coordinated by the various agencies of the UN such as WHO, FAO, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNDP, etc. There was a contribution of US$15 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help these prone countries battle the spread of the COVID-19. On 13 March 2020, WHO announced the launch of a first-of-its-kind COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund (SRF). This was done to bring together all the governments, organizations, individuals from across all the sectors to help respond to this Global Pandemic. This received a good response from across the countries and a remarkable number of people contributed to help fight this outbreak.

Also, one of the significant steps taken by the UN was the launch of “Covid-19 Law Lab Initiative” in July 2020, It is an important tool for sharing good legal practices on policies and to ensure that laws of every country protect the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities while adhering to international human rights standards.

WHO started and is still constantly making efforts to bring the world’s scientists and global health professionals together to accelerate the research and development process to develop care for those affected and in need of it. Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT Accelerator) which is a global collaboration for the same was initiated to accelerate the development of therapeutics and vaccines. In India, the India-UN Development Partnership Fund established in 2017 is used to support projects which are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in areas of boosting national healthcare capacities.

Covid-19 and response to the violation of Human Rights:

When the crisis started unfolding itself in its challenging forms it also posed a lot of threat to basic human rights because as we all know in times like these, there are gross violations of human rights everywhere. People only think about themselves and their families while leaving others in their adverse conditions because of which the cases of discrimination, violence, and abuse have significantly increased around the world. The Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) which is UN’s special body designed to prevent this kind of violations stepped in, urged, and requested all governments to ensure that human rights are respected while laying down any rules or guidelines to tackle Covid-19.

Also, as the cases started spreading among the prisons and detention centers, the OHCHR published a Toolkit of treaty law perspectives and jurisprudence in the context of COVID-19 which laid down the specific guidelines in the form of laws to be respected while tackling the pandemic.

Agency Specific Responses other than WHO:

As Secretary-General Guterres said, “COVID-19 is the greatest test since World War II; it is more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis.” UN took the cognizance of this grave issue with the help of its various agencies. Some of the important chores taken by these agencies other than WHO which is solely driven towards this issue are:

1. UN Development Program (UNDP)

UNDP initiated a campaign that focused on spreading information about Covid-19 preparedness, prevention, and response. In various countries such as Indonesia, they distributed ventilators, masks, and PPE kleenguard suits to the COVID affected areas. In countries like Laos, UNDP launched a special service known as “one call away” to disperse the voice messages to authorities to help the disabled people in the COVID affected areas. Also, UNDP funded the establishment of quarantine centers in various countries such as Malaysia.


According to the data, UNICEF has reached around 2.6 billion people regarding the prevention of Covid-19 and by giving them access to services. It has distributed wash and hygiene supplies to over 54.4 million people. Not only this, but UNICEF also believes in community service for which it has trained 2.8 million health workers and facility staffs across various countries. It is constantly working with the governments of all countries and partnering to use different platforms to train, teach, and monitor the cases.

3. International Organisation for Migration (IOM)

This agency of the UN is dedicated to helping needy immigrants and emigrants whenever needed. In the Corona pandemic as well, IOM showed a lot of efforts by testing trans-border truck drivers of Corona, around 4,500 truck drivers on Kenya’s borders, and 9,000 drivers in Mozambique. In Libya, PPE was given to migrants in detention centers, in many countries IMO helped in fumigating, disinfection of the affected areas and also providing the hygiene kits and free treatment to the infected migrants.

4. World Food Programme (WFP)

The WFP also showed its role by lending the service of cargo and air passenger in the absence of commercial flights. Around 12,500 passengers for 229 organizations have used this service to reach 52 destinations. The WFP also partnered with UNICEF to improve school health facilities and nutrition in response to Covid-19. This is targeting nearly 1 million students in approximately 30 prone countries who need help.


Although the UN showed its best attempts since the commencement of this pandemic whether it is spreading up of relevant information, distributing essential safety kits or helping the countries financially but still only if the UN’s agencies could have identified and taken up some stiff steps soon after its outbreak in China then maybe this could be prevented at least in a way that it would not cause the amount of harm it is causing now.

Nevertheless, one cannot just shut their eyes on the efforts of the UN over time in combating this pandemic, still the UN’s persistent endeavors are giving direction to the world in fighting this pandemic. UN is now creating a framework to help the countries responding to this pandemic in Socio-economic ways. As we are well aware that due to this pandemic every country’s economy has been affected dreadfully so through the next 12-18 months UN will help the middle and lower-income countries to get back their economies on track. This will be done through the Recover Better Trust Fund via various sustainable development programs.

UN has also initiated Communications Response initiative to combat the growing scourge of misinformation related to Covid-19 and to spread the correct information. Even this endeavor was supported by many countries as every other and mostly all countries came together in the 73rd world health assembly on 18th May 2020 to draft and pass the resolution on the agenda Covid-19 response.

In these COVID times, all of us saw something peculiar which is infrequent, we saw the solidarity amongst the countries as they came together as one to confront this bijou and yet humongous virus. If we shall continue to trace this path with due diligence then definitely we’ll emerge more vigorous and impregnable.