In 2020, the rapid spread of COVID-19 globally—concurrent with its impact on global supply chain networks of personal protective equipment (PPE) products and medical equipment— strained national healthcare systems and their ability to safely combat the novel virus. These disruptions disproportionately affected low and middle-income countries (LMICs), which had limited access to PPE, making it difficult for people to recover their livelihoods and re-open economies.

In partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Crisis Bureau Recovery Solutions and Mobility team and its partners, UW–Madison worked with local stakeholders in LMICs to strengthen the COVID-19 response by providing custom technical assistance. UNDP country offices provided industry, government, academic, and healthcare connections and mobilized the response on the ground with support from the Crisis Bureau Recovery Solutions and Mobility team. While UW–Madison provided consultation and support regarding the technical assistance instruments and the development of roadmap response frameworks for UNDP countries. This included feedback on in-development prototypes and production processes, needs assessment of the country’s healthcare system, sending relevant documents and resources, etc.

While this work concluded in 2020, for a narrative overview of the partnership, see chapter 28 “International COVID-19 Response: A University-Intergovernmental Organization Partnership” by Elise S. Ahn, Rebecca Alcock, Paul Block and Janis Tupesis in Wisconsin in the World: Internationalization at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (edited by Elise S. Ahn), forthcoming in 2023.

As a result of the work done on this partnership, Yemen’s young mechatronic engineers are leading local solutions for national recovery from COVID-19.