“As a UN Volunteer, volunteerism is embedded in the heart and can be reflected at any time. When the novel coronavirus outbreak occurred in China, during the emergency, every UN Volunteer came forward to join the fight” says Zhao Tiansong, UN Volunteer serving as a Coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China’s Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Development Project.
Zhao had just started his UN Volunteer assignment with UNDP, during the coronavirus outbreak. Having the option to also travel to his hometown for the Spring Festival, with the impending crisis in hand, Zhao decided to stay back in his duty station to support the prevention and response efforts for COVID-19 instead. Zhao’s hometown Yuhang District, Hangzhou City, in China’s Zhejiang Province, is about 1,300kms apart from his duty station in Chengbu Miao Autonomous County, Shaoyang City, Hunan Province.
“I have just arrived for my assignment and I understood the need to integrate and understand the community context as soon as possible. Instant volunteer engagement was vital during the epidemic, and I knew I could help out more by staying at the duty station” says Zhao.
In early February 2020, the Epidemic Prevention & Control Headquarters in Chengbu was established. Zhao was responsible for the protection work at the scene, supporting to provide material as well as creating awareness among the communities.
In order to ensure a fair and just material management system, the county material distribution was also supported by external professionals. This included purchase, receipt and distribution of epidemic prevention material throughout the county, such masks, body temperature testers, medical protective clothing, disinfectants among other items.
“Together with local government staff, we supported the management and distribution of the required essential material. They spent a lot of their private time, fuel consumption costs of private vehicles, and providing call services for uninterrupted security 24-hours a day” points out Zhao.
Zhao explains the support he was involved in providing for COVID-19 prevention and response efforts:
The first task was to assist the local Epidemic Prevention and Control Headquarters providing traffic security and vehicles for the groups of personnel providing material support around the clock. I also supported them with transport across no less than 50 inner-counties during the epidemic period. The security work carried out was highly praised by the Government and local civil servants.
Engaging with the community
The second task was to go deep into the grassroots communities, including visiting farmers, to ensure their safety and understand the situation of cooperatives affected by the epidemic situation. I strengthened the networks with them, to encourage to keep their spirits up and also to create awareness on how to deal with the adverse situation and be active participants in ensuring the safety of themselves and others.
The third task was reporting the information to the China International Economic and Technological Exchange Center and submitting the ‘UN Volunteers Weekly Report’ to the office so that my team can understand of the real-time situation in the community.
Request for information
In order to ensure safety, it was important to understand the experiences, difficulties and needs which people were facing. It was also important to understand these factors to be ready and prepare for any future developments and crisis we may have to face.
The response and support of volunteers like Zhao, authorities and stakeholders have been a vital role in preventing the spread of the pandemic in the community during coronavirus crisis. Zhoa together with the teams continues their fight in the frontlines assisting communities in remote areas, ensuring people’s safety, security and wellbeing, in the fight against COVID-19.