Laura Brandao remotely supporting communities in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic
Laura Brandao remotely supporting communities in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic

Engaging women and youth in fighting COVID-19

In Guinea-Bissau, UN Volunteers are supporting the UN system's engagement in the national COVID-19 contingency plan and spearheading the sensitization of communities.

If there is a skill that UN Volunteers currently assigned in Guinea-Bissau have strengthened in the fight against COVID-19, it is adaptability to local and national situations.

João Hernani Melo and Laura Brandão, Brazilian UN Volunteers assigned to UNDP and UNFPA respectively, have had to develop effective response strategies to accompany the government and support communities in these challenging times.

As a Project Associate with the UNDP Global Fund Programme Management Unit, João Melo is the UNDP Focal Point for COVID-19. In this new role, he coordinates response strategies and implementation of activities at the national level. João also supports colleagues at the World Health Organization (WHO), and participates in the activities of the country's Public Health Emergency Operations Centre.

In Guinea Bissau, many families share common living spaces and the informal economy is the only way for people to earn their daily wage. In this context, prevention measures need to be adapted to this context to ensure continuity in livelihoods in a safe environment. --João Melo, UN Volunteer Project Associate with UNDP

Laura Brandão and her colleagues at UNFPA actively engage women and young leaders to support the response to the pandemic in the country. She serves as UN Volunteer Project Coordinator for a United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UNPBF) project promoting Women and Youth Political Participation. 

Through my work, I ensure that women and young leaders are actively engaged in fighting COVID-19 across the eight regions of the country. --Laura Brandão, UN Volunteer Project Coordinator with UNPBF 

To do so, she collaborates with the Ubuntu Academy of Leaders to raise awareness and disseminate official COVID-19 prevention messages through phone calls. The strategy is simple: daily, five technicians call 40 trainers spread all over the country, who, in turn, follow up by calling another 25 trainees each.

Trough these daily telephone calls, UNFPA aims to train and motivate 1,000 women and youth leaders in social transformation within communities. They also allow UNFPA to contribute to early warning and rapid response to the pandemic, through the dissemination of official information and accurate data about COVID-19.

To help Laura monitor efficiency, an online database follows community perception, cohesion and access to services. This, in turn, informs the actions of institutional actors addressing COVID-19 through sex-disaggregated data for synergy and streamlined rapid response.

Currently, 15 UN Volunteers are serving with seven UN entities, including the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS). According to WHO, the country ranks 23rd most affected by COVID-19 on the continent.