Women in Chopoghlou village, south of Lake Urmia, have been sewing masks and gowns to support those at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo Credit: UNDP Iran


“I have been sewing masks and gowns with love – love for my country and those on the frontline of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic”, said Hajar. She lives in Chopoghlou village, south of Lake Urmia, North west Iran.

For the past couple of months, along with other women from her village, they have been involved in producing personal protective equipment. These women are part of the Lake Urmia restoration project under the Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project, a joint initiative between Iran’s Department of Environment, Government of Japan and UNDP, and at the heart of this project is the goal of women empowerment. Currently, over 35 women in six villages in the area are involved in this process.

“We started doing this voluntarily. We wanted to have a role in responding to this pandemic. As time went by, since the quality of our work was high, we started receiving orders. It gives me a good feeling to know that I am supporting those in the frontline, while at the same time supporting my own family. Some of the women in the group really need the financial support, especially in the current socio-economic context that is affecting many across the globe. So, we are grateful to have jobs and to be supporting those at the forefront of the battle.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to a public health crisis, has affected the economy, jobs, and people’s livelihoods. The economic downturn, with its social ramifications, may indeed be unprecedented. In Iran, estimates point to a loss of 15% of GDP within the next 12 months, with forty percent of the lowest income groups most impacted. Furthermore, prolonged shutdown of businesses amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and disruption in the labour market could result in the unemployment of more than four million people including more than 700,000 informal workers in the country compounding the effects of the unilateral sanctions.

Beyond the immediate response and supply of personal protective equipment and supplies, the UN Iran was one of the first to launch a Social-Economic Recovery Programme offer (launched in June) to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Iran – a process which was led by UNDP.

The UN Iran COVID-19 socio-economic recovery programme, developed around the UN global framework is an ambitious offer which builds on previously tested initiatives and targets three interlinked sectors:

  • Health system strengthening,
  • Social protection, and
  • Job generation

The programme offer intends to support initially approximately 100,000 vulnerable households through social protection initiatives and employment generation support – in four provinces. A Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) model targeting 42,000 vulnerable households, with expanded access to basic social services, that can be potentially considered for nation-wide scale up through a more shock responsive social protection system – and in parallel establishing 50,000 new micro and small enterprise/employment possibilities for them through low overhead cost approaches of $1,000 per support and the establishing of relevant activities, that are also composite social protection and micro-enterprise development approaches utilizing proven methods promoted by the UN agencies in Iran.

The programme offer brings together expertise from different UN entities aiming to deliver results around fewer areas of work, underpinned by a “building forward better” principle. To achieve its target, USD 15 million has already been repurposed to be used to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic impacts. An additional estimated USD 50 million is needed to reach and support 100,000 households in Iran with the aim of focusing and attracting resources to a few meaningful, impactful, and scalable initiatives to help recover faster and build resilience to future shocks.

What is new: the UN offer offer builds on existing, scalable and tested initiatives that are capable of delivering results in a cost-effective manner focused mainly on bottom-up approaches to complemented large-scale government investments in infrastructure. In also brings together the UN agencies around a fresh performance and outcome-based offer paving the way for new inter-agency initiatives.

Restoring livelihoods and money earning activities might not only alleviate the impact of the current crisis but also help to build resilience to future events. In fact, youth unemployment rate in Iran is particularly high, like many countries in Asia and Pacific.

Iran has made considerable achievements in Human Development in the last two decades, it counts with a young population who are well educated, skilled and healthy to contribute to the diversification of the economy. UNDP is a long-standing partner, focused on protecting development gains and supporting innovative approaches to face emerging challenges.

UNDP has also partnered with the first female tech startup Sisootech to promote digitalization in rural areas and support small business and internal tourism.

We hope that out of a global crisis, emerges a movement guided by human principles and values, that greed gives room to solidarity making peace amongst nations and with the environment.

Our commitment during COVID-19 remains untouched.


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