Volunteers on the frontline of the COVID-19 response in Azerbaijan
Op-ed by Ghulam M. Isaczai, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Azerbaijan, dedicated to the “Year of Volunteers” in the country.
The “Year of Volunteers” in Azerbaijan has coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic hat has emerged as the defining global health crisis of our time. It is having an unprecedented impact on almost all countries across the world, with the potential to create devastating social, economic and political crises with far-reaching consequences. Every day, people are losing jobs and income, with no way of knowing when normality will return.
The United Nations is working with all countries in the world to help them to urgently and effectively respond to COVID-19.
In Azerbaijan as well, the UN system is working closely with the government and other partners to address the immediate challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing technical advice in health care, risk communication, education and supporting social welfare for the most vulnerable, as well as helping procure vital medical and other supplies.
In such circumstances, onsite and online UN Volunteers help the UN system all over the world. UN Volunteers COVID-19 response global talent pool is 200,000 registered, who are highly skilled professionals from over 150 nationalities covering over 100 different professional profiles and are ready to join the frontline.
I take this opportunity to highlight the important role of volunteerism during such crises. These days volunteers are among the first responders to the COVID-19 outbreak. Along with doctors, paramedics, emergency staff at critical sectors, they became another category of unsung heroes playing a pivotal role in this crisis.
Thus, working tirelessly in capital Baku and the districts across the country in Azerbaijan, volunteers show courage and resilience, create social bonds and give a voice to marginalized and vulnerable groups.
I have been deeply touched and inspired when I saw photos of volunteers on social media channels, who identify people in need, do fundraising, deliver necessary supplies to them and then report back to donors on how they spend their donations.
Volunteers in masks and gloves provide food assistance to families, as well as, using their social media platforms, raise awareness about good hygiene and social distancing, and fight against misinformation.
I am pleased to see how volunteers quickly adapted to new realities and found new ways to continue their noble work.
The UN system in Azerbaijan is also cooperating with volunteers in their COVID-19 response.
UNHCR’s office in Azerbaijan has partnered with the volunteers of the Azerbaijani State Migration Service in delivering food assistance to 232 asylum seeker and refugee households.
UNICEF, with the financial support of the European Union and USAID, is working closely with volunteers from ASAN, Youth Foundation, Red Crescent Society and Regional Development Public Union in conducting online and offline awareness-raising activities, combating misinformation and supporting vulnerable families. To be more specific, more than 213 families of children living in institutions, as well as young people with disabilities received food assistance. Some 55 volunteers distributed food packages and print materials to 517 families and this process will include around 800 families.
We also have a new opportunity for volunteers to work together with another UN agency. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Azerbaijan made a call for volunteers in Gakh, Zagatala and Balakan districts who will conduct beneficiary needs assessment and gender equality campaigns, and involve women farmers and entrepreneurs to FAO’s project on sustainability and inclusive agri-food systems in the north-west region of the country. I encourage those interested in this volunteering opportunity in this region to apply by 15 May.
So, the impressive response during the COVID-19 pandemic shows that there is a sizable untapped potential of volunteerism in Azerbaijan that we need to capitalise on, as the country deals with the social and economic aftermath of COVID-19.
On this important occasion of the “Year of Volunteers” in Azerbaijan, I would like to recognize the important role that volunteerism play in our local and global efforts to respond to COVID-19 crisis and profoundly thank all volunteers for their contributions and reaching out to the most vulnerable population in Azerbaijan during these hours of needs. Their efforts to leave no one behind in the COVID-19 response contribute significantly to the progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Volunteers are inspiration in action!