Male’, 8 November 2021 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Maldives, with the generous support of the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund today handed over digitalization equipment to the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services (MoGFSS), National Social Protection Agency (NSPA), and Local Government Authority (LGA).

The digitalization equipment was procured under the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Project (MTFP) and was presented to Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services and NSPA to ensure their business continuity during emergency and crisis situations while the equipment will be used by the LGA to build their capacity to upgrade their online portal “Vuna”. The “Vuna” portal was designed to digitalize the manual administrative work done by the councils such as maintaining mandatory registers of information, regular sharing of data with other government institutions and archiving this information. The new update to the portal will introduce features to systematically collect data on vulnerable population in all island communities by the local councils, to further strengthen the service delivery by MoGFSS and NSPA. The equipment provided include laptops, computers, virtual server, and backup software which will then create an impact across the nation as this would support the service delivery work that all agencies do at the grassroots level.

“UNDP’s digitalization support will contribute in strengthening social service delivery. Further this will also enhance work efficiency and contribute to staff motivation,” said Fathimath Yumna, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services.

The measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, including lockdown and restrictions in movement, school closures, and the resulting inability of social workers to conduct home visits to vulnerable families, means that at-risk women and children are forced to be locked in with potential perpetrators of violence. At the same time, national protection systems were weakened, and essential services disrupted amidst prioritization and focus on immediate health responses. This, together with a lack of harmonized mechanisms to address these issues put more vulnerable groups in danger of violations of their human rights.   

During this period, though the digitalization support provided, business continuity of key agencies catering to the vulnerable population such as Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services and NSPA were ensured. Concurrently, the capacity of Local Government Authority was built to initiate work towards upgrading their online platform, where data from vulnerable populations are collected on a single platform for effective service provision by the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services and NSPA.

"With the rapid migration to digital technologies and services driven by the pandemic, the digitalization support provided will enhance the existing information technology infrastructure of NSPA and significantly build the capacity and availability of our data, enabling us to deliver a better and more accessible service," said Rugiyya Mohamed, Deputy CEO, National Social Protection Agency.

Through the strengthening of the Social Protection system with improved coordination, participation, and digital single-entry portal to capture all people in the Maldives, the project seeks to ensure that women and girls have increased capacity and freedom to make their own individual choices, and that people belonging to the vulnerable population including children, women in the informal sector, people with disabilities and others living below the poverty line will receive timely and adequate social protection benefits, access higher quality services, and become more resilient to shocks that might arise in a situation of crisis.

“We highly appreciate the support being provided by UNDP in our efforts to digitalize a very key responsibility of local councils: empowering and assisting vulnerable residents within local communities by recording and providing their information to stakeholder agencies in a secure and structured manner. Vulnerable Communities Module, which is a module within E-Council Vuna Portal, was initially rolled out for this purpose with necessary functions and features in Dec 2020. We are currently working in collaboration with MoGFSS, NSPA and UNDP to launch an upgraded version of this module on ‘myCouncil’ app in Dec 2021,” said Fathimath Afshaan Latheef, CEO, Local Government Authority.

“UNDP is paying special attention to the benefits of innovation and digital disruption in this challenging time. This handover of digital equipment forms part of the overall UNDP business continuity initiative, which is supporting public institutions transition to a virtual operating environment in order to continue providing essential services to those who need it the most. Our support will contribute to transforming institutional processes driving social protection, paving way for reducing inequalities and ensuring the rights of vulnerable populations - particularly women, during emergency situations and beyond,” said Enrico Gaveglia, UNDP Resident Representative in the Maldives, speaking at the handover ceremony.

As part of a joint effort with UNFPA, UNICEF and UNDP, this is being done under a project with the Government of Maldives, which aims to safeguard women and children from falling into poverty and increasing their resilience to vulnerabilities due to prolonged socioeconomic and emergency situations. This will be done by ensuring their economic and social freedoms by means of enabling easy access to shock-responsive social protection benefits.  

This joint programme is possible thanks to the contributions to the UN Response and Recovery Fund by the governments of Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Republic of Korea, Finland, New Zealand, Croatia, Iceland, Thailand, Slovak Republic, and Cambodia.

 

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For inquiries: aminath.ibrahim@undp.org

 

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