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Sida’s efforts against COVID-19

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern in January 2020, much of the progress made in the fight against poverty over many years has been rolled back. Over the past year, a large proportion of Sida’s 2,000 interventions in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe have been adapted to best meet the increased and changes needs of the people.

En kvinna med munskydd sitter och tillverkar munskydd i tyg.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that hundreds of millions of jobs have been lost. The picture shows a woman who works with sewing mouth guards in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Photo: KB Mpofu / ILO

Stepping up and adapting aid

Pre-pandemic needs have not receded; what Sida does now must remain of benefit once COVID-19 has passed. Sida’s long-term work to reinforce healthcare systems can make it easier for countries to deal with any future outbreaks of similar viruses.

Access to clean water is a prerequisite for people to remain in good health

Sida and our partner organisations have been quick to redirect and adapt our efforts in a number of areas. New initiatives in the field of healthcare include increasing access to clean water – a prerequisite if people are to stay healthy.

Other aid projects have focused on education, so that it will be easier from children to return to school. In Tanzania, Sida has helped schools to reopen in a safe manner, so that pupils could make up the work they missed while schools were closed in spring 2020.

We have increased support to a large number of journalists so that they can reach more people with relevant information about COVID-19. Particularly disadvantaged groups, such as people with disabilities, women, children, the LGBTQI community and human rights defenders have received training, support and protection.

As a result of the pandemic, there has been an increase in child marriages and teenage pregnancies and fewer women have sought maternity care. Violence against women and children has also increased significantly. Moldova provides one of many examples where, via UN Women, Sida has provided protective equipment to women who are subjected to violence.

SEK 1.62 billion to fight COVID-19

In addition to stepping up and refocusing many projects, Sida has decided on 100 pandemic-related measures, both entirely new interventions and additional funding for ongoing collaborations.

  • In total, Sida has allocated SEK 1.62 billion to fight the pandemic and its impact on society.
  • Approximately SEK 700 million1 has been directly allocated to preventing the spread of infection through measures such strengthening healthcare systems.
  • Approximately SEK 1 billion1 has been paid out with the intention of alleviating the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic, including in the form of economic support to those who have lost their livelihoods.
  • The lion’s share, SEK 1.3 billion, has been distributed via multilateral organisations (UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, WHO, UNOPS/Cities Alliances, IFAD, World Bank and a joint UN programme to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights). 
  • SEK 230 million has been invested in strengthening civil society organisations and their work.

1 Some interventions were directed at both preventing the spread of infection and alleviating the effects of the pandemic. This means that the sum of the two orientations will be more than SEK 1.49 million.

Examples of initiatives against COVID-19

Stronger healthcare systems

UNICEF works on a broad front to get to grips with the pandemic through measures such as ensuring access to vital drugs, improving access to maternity services, improving access to drinking water and sanitation and strengthening social safety nets.

Cash support to the people of Sudan

The Sudanese have been hard hit by the country’s economic crisis and COVID-19. Sida supports the World Bank’s Sudan Family Support Program, which provides cash support to 80% of Sudan’s population.

Compensating for lost income

Through the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the programme Rural Poor Stimulus Facility, Sida supports people at risk of losing their livelihoods and being unable to put food on the table due to broken supply chains and closed-down markets.

Renewable energy to urban slums

Through the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Financing Facility for Remittances programme, the rural poor receive help to manage the money sent home by relatives working abroad. The World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) supplies renewable energy to urban slums.

Better equipped to face future crises

UN Habitat focuses on ensuring that informal slum settlements are included in the COVID-19 measures implemented in cities. Among other things, Sida’s support helps to strengthen resilience to future crises, through measures such as including informal settlements in urban planning, increasing access to housing and basic social services such as clean water, and other measures aimed at reducing the spread of infection.

Vulnerable groups can apply for funds

Sida has created a special COVID-19 fund via the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights. This fund is aimed at women’s organisations and feminist activists working in the field of human rights. They can apply for rapid-response funding for support to women, LGBTQI individuals and other vulnerable groups adversely affected by the pandemic.

Preventing gender-based violence

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides people with access to information and services in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Among other things, these are intended to prevent gender-based violence and support its victims and to increase access to contraception.  

Safety net for women in urban areas

To mitigate the socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic, Dida supports the work of UNICEF in Ethiopia. The aim is to strengthen the social safety net specifically for women and children living in urban poverty. 

Increasing access to water in Zimbabwe

Sida supports the work of Oxfam to increase the resilience of the Zimbabwean countryside and agricultural sector to climate change. This initiative increases access to water, sanitation and hygiene, a necessity during the pandemic, and to food and nutrition. 

Alleviating the impact of the pandemic with artificial intelligence

In collaboration with the international Development Research Centre (IDRC), Sida supports the COVID-19 Global South Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Innovation Fund. The fund finances research into how AI and computer science can be used to alleviate the impact of the pandemic. 

Keeping children and young people in school

Sida supports the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which has redirected its efforts in order to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic for education in 67 low-income countries. GPE helps children and young people to continue their education while schools are closed and prepares schools to reopen again. 

Identifying those at risk of unemployment

Sida supports the World Bank’s Jobs Group through the Jobs Umbrella Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF). The Jobs Group has redirected its efforts to analyse the impact of the pandemic on the global labour market and identify vulnerable workers and households. The World Bank also contributes to national policies to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. 

Emergency assistance to LGBTQI individuals

COVID-19 has a particularly deleterious effect on those who are already vulnerable. Our partner organisation Frontline AIDS has adapted its approach in order to offer emergency assistance to LGBTQI individuals who do not have access to healthcare – HIV treatment, for example – due to stigma, discrimination, threats and violence.

Updated: 2 July 2021