As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates globally, WHO urges countries to focus on 4 priorities: prevent amplifying events; empower people to protect themselves; focus on public health basics; and protect the vulnerable, including older people and those with underlying conditions.
Major challenges in mitigating the pandemic include inadequate risk communications and community engagement; limited national capacities to isolate, quarantine and trace; and, limited adherence to social and physical distancing.
In the region, some countries are easing previous lockdown measures, and new infections are seeing a steep increase even in countries with previously low rates such as Tunisia and Jordan. Lebanon is experiencing a steady and exponential increase in new infections after the devastating blasts at the Beirut port on 4 August. Iraq is of particular concern.
Containment efforts and shutting down large sectors of the economy have triggered a global economic crisis, which has the potential to further destabilize the region. The UN Secretary-General’s policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on the Arab region highlights the likely devastating regional effects of the pandemic.
Some population groups will be especially hard hit, including women, migrants and the more than 62 million people already in need of humanitarian assistance prior to COVID-19. Those caught in armed conflict face particular challenges.
The pandemic response is an opportunity to address long-standing conflicts and structural weaknesses. Continued international support to countries in the region is necessary to weather this crisis and build back better.
UNFPA is working to ensure the continuity of sexual and reproductive health services and gender-based violence prevention and response, to protect health workers, to engage communities and to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its negative socio-economic impact.