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World Health Organization donations of medical equipment and supplies to the Ministry of Health in North Macedonia for COVID-19 response.

"What is not reported is invisible" - volunteers behind the scenes

Across the world, partners in the wider development system are invested in addressing the pandemic that has changed our lives over the past year. Our priorities include coordinating the humanitarian response, monitoring its results, evaluating impact, planning vaccinations and building capacity of counterparts. These essential pillars of the COVID-19 response require dedicated human resources, skilled in time management and multitasking and equipped with ownership. In come UN Volunteers, serving behind the scenes.

Oleksandra Malukalo joined the UN Resident Coordinator's Office in Ukraine as a national UN Volunteer last year. She is among national UN Volunteers deployed in 79 countries and with 18 UN entities through an investment of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme. UNV dedicated US $2 million for this purpose from its Special Voluntary Fund* (SVF), a flexible multi-donor fund that allows UNV to provide timely and strategic investments.

Oleksandra is a valuable member of the COVID-19 response coordination team in the country and supports the First Line of Defence (FLoD), led by Dr. A F M Risatul Islam, Chief Medical Officer with the International Organization for Migration, and COVID-19/FLoD Coordinator. She shares, "Successful coordination requires you to constantly be on top of things, needs lots of inspiration and the will to bring people together, hence it saves lives."

Ukraine WHD Alexandra Malukalo.jpg

Oleksandra contributes to UN duty of care, including medical evacuations, inter-agency response coordination and facilitating communication with UN entities and non-governmental organizations, including those located in conflict-affected zones. "The next step now is providing COVID-19 vaccinations for UN personnel across Ukraine," Oleksandra says. "I’ve been working for the UN since 2015 and know that maintaining good health (both physical and mental) is critical, as well as enabling those delivering positive change in my home country."

Blagica Michova serves as a national specialist in COVID-19 pandemic response with the UNRCO in North Macedonia. She joined the team when UN support for the response in the country was in full swing.

She augmented the immediate COVID-19 response through her engagement in consolidating needs for medical supplies, PPEs and other equipment, as well as of non-medical items. This information was subsequently used by the UN, Government and donors for monitoring, tracking and implementing COVID-19 response measures and understanding the associated financial needs. 



UNOPS in North Macedonia procured and delivered vital medical equipment and items to fight COVID-19 in the value of €4 million allocated by the EU, Photo©UNOPS, 2021

As the UN’s role in supporting COVID-19 response evolved and the long-term and recovery aspects became more important, Blagica’s tasks and role were also adjusted. The COVID-19 Response Framework, the key strategic document showcasing the UN’s collective expertise and support to address the socio-economic aspects of COVID-19 in North Macedonia, was launched in July 2020 and used by the Government and international partners. Blagica’s main tasks have been to track and update UN activities across the framework's five pillars, conduct data analysis and enable better coordinated decision making and action.

The UN has done an important job with supporting relevant national institutions and responders during the time of COVID-19, in particular through ensuring that the most vulnerable groups have not been left behind and that the sustainable development agenda has not been forgotten during the time of the pandemic. I am proud and grateful for the opportunity to be able to contribute to this and practical results of UN’s work! --Blagica Michova.

UN Volunteer Wahyu Manggala Putra serves in monitoring and evaluation with the UNRCO in Indonesia. He is actively engaged in technical activities, which are conducted mostly virtually. This includes keeping the UN COVID-19 project dashboard up to date, monitoring and reporting on the vaccination of UN personnel. Wahyu also assisted the coordination and monitorng the humanitarian response plan, as part of the UN Sustainable Development Coordination Framework. 

Angga brings a set of indispensable skills that are in high need at this time of coordinating the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He does not shy away from taking on additional tasks. We are a small team, and the expectations are high to deliver results. The professionalism and openness of Angga are highly valued by the entire team... and all this without ever having seen each other! --Ms Afke Bootsman, Head of RCO, Indonesia

In Congo, Binson Nzaba is a national UN Volunteer with the Health Emergencies Programme of the World Health Organization. He monitors projects and operations, and evaluates the quality of the results, including management, coordination, efficiency and mobilization of resources. Another one of his tasks is to support plans and programmes for prevention, preparedness, response and recovery in the event of an emergency. Binson provides technical support to identify public health benchmarks and health-specific interventions that are evidence-based.


Binson Nzaba, national UN Volunteer with the Health Emergencies Programme of the World Health Organization in Congo, collects data at health facilities to document progress and monitor indicators. ©WHO, 2021

*UNV's Special Voluntary Fund (SVF) was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1970. Over time, the SVF mandate has been modified and expanded, with the SVF providing seed funding to scale up successful projects where volunteerism has had a transformative impact. The SVF is also used to develop innovative volunteer-based solutions as well as undertake research and knowledge sharing. Read more here