Supporting vulnerable groups and the continuity of local and critical services during the Covid-19 pandemic


The COVID-19 global health emergency and its economic and social impacts have disrupted nearly all aspects of life. This has created new needs for vulnerable groups while simultaneously further exacerbating pervasive structural challenges.

This project supported Tunisia’s efforts to address these challenges by promoting an inclusive, equitable and responsive governance with a specific focus on the local level in six priority municipalities: Sidi Ali Ben Aoun and Cebalet Ouled Asker in Sidi Bouzid, Enfidha and Sidi El Heni in Sousse, and Ghomrassen and Bir Lahmer in Tataouine.

The project action was designed and implemented in cooperation with local authorities, local civil society organisations as well as the central government, especially the Presidency of Government, the Ministry of Local Affairs and the Environment, the Ministry of Women, Family and Seniors, and the Ministry of Social Affairs, with the financial support of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.



‌The project supported Tunisian central and local authorities in their effort to better address the needs of vulnerable groups and provides capacity building to local civil society and citizens to contribute to this mission.   

The project achieved this by:

  • Objective 1: Supporting the delivery of social protection services for vulnerable groups
  • Objective 2: Ensuring the continuity of and access to critical local public services for vulnerable groups
  • Objective 3: Securing the efficient procurement and delivery of critical goods, services and assistance to the most vulnerable


Better social protection services

The COVID-19 crisis has profoundly changed people’s lives, causing tremendous human suffering and affecting people’s sense of personal security. The impact of COVID-19 has been particularly severe for the most disadvantaged and has compounded existing socio-economic divides. Lockdowns and mobility restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus measures have notably led to a global surge in domestic violence and have compromised the effectiveness of protection systems and safeguards for vulnerable children, youth and women.

Hence the need for stronger social protection services for at-risk children and youth, victims/survivors of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence as well as rural women lacking social security coverage, especially in marginalised communities and regions.

At-risk children and youth:

Social workers in the three target governorates are now better equipped to safeguard the continuity of social protection services and support at-risk children and youth through:

  • coaching on the implementation of conflict and health-sensitive measures
  • the delivery of personal protective equipment
  • the development of a guide with clear guidelines on the implementation of sanitary measures
  • the conception of pedagogical videos on the handling of sensitive cases

Victims/Survivors of domestic and gender-based violence

The quality of and access to protection services for victims/survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in the three target governorates was improved through:

  • the operationalisation of regional coordination bodies (ICR)
  • the creation of emergency contact points

The ICR were created by ministerial decision in February 2020 but were not functional. The project helped operationalise them by identifying their specific role, building their capacities and providing them with the needed tools (see job descriptions in Sidi Bouzid, Sousse and Tataouine; roadmap/mapping of services; monitoring tool; and internal rules of procedures).

The project developed a benchmark of new emergency contact points for women victims/survivors of GBV in OECD member countries to inform the decision-making behind the creation of new emergency contact points in local pharmacies in Tunisia. The project supported the creation of these contact points by developing the assistance protocol and communication and sensitisation documents, and by training the first group of pharmacists.

Marginalised rural women

The analysis of the current system and the survey results were collected in a diagnostic report identifying concrete ways to support rural women working in the informal sector through better governance, including coordination, communication and evidence-based decision-making.


Better continuity of and access to critical local public services

Subnational governments are at the frontline of the response to the COVID-19 crisis. Regional and local authorities are responsible for effectively implementing infection prevention measures and continuing to deliver critical public services. However, they struggle from a lack of equipment, human resources and skills.

The project thus supports the continuity of and access to critical local public services through improved waste collection, local public communication and digital skills, as well as inter-stakeholder coordination.

Waste collection

COVID-19 has emphasised our collective reliance on essential services delivered at the local level. Waste collectors play a key role in keeping cities clean and participate in the resilience of their community.

The continuity of municipal waste collection services in crisis situations through:

  • the development of Tunisia’s first ever epidemiological report to study the impact of COVID-19 on municipal waste collection in Tunisia
  • the conception of business continuity plans with clear guidelines to the local and national authorities in cases of crises

Municipal waste collectors in the six target municipalities are now properly equipped to safeguard the continuity of municipal waste collection through:

  • coaching on the implementation of sanitary measures
  • the delivery of personal protective equipment
  • vaccination against Tetanus and Hepatitis B (in cooperation with a local NGO)

Local public communication and digital government

Improving the transparency, communication and use of digital/IT tools of local public service providers is another important way to ensure that local public services are effectively being delivered to citizens.

The project coached the staff and elected officials of the six target municipalities to provide them with practical public communication tools and techniques, support the elaboration of municipal communication strategies, and promote the adoption of digital service delivery skills for a more open, democratic, transparent and accessible local government.

Inter-stakeholder coordination

Strong coordination between all actors in charge of the response at central and regional levels is essential for an effective crisis response and for ensuring the continuity of critical local public services for the most vulnerable. Yet, inter-stakeholder coordination remains one of the biggest obstacle in Tunisia’s public response to COVID-19.The project supported inter-stakeholder coordination in the six target municipalities through:

  • the development of a coordination platform promoting the identification and support to proposals of municipal development (see Coordination Platform user guide)
  • coaching of municipal staff and elected officials on designing their own municipal development projects
  • the creation of a local coordination mechanism on social protection issues in each of the six target municipalities
  • coaching of local stakeholders on dialogue and coordination tools for more efficient local coordination mechanisms
  • delivery of logistical equipment to local stakeholders in support of local coordination



Better procurement and delivery of critical goods, services and assistance

Public procurement in Tunisia represents 15% of the country’s GDP and 40% of the national budget and is at the forefront of the crisis response to ensure the urgent and rapid supply of critical goods, as well as the delivery of public services, particularly health services. The COVID-19 crisis creates, however, challenges of responsiveness, accountability and equitability for governments in terms of public procurement and delivery of critical goods and services.

To that end, the project works to enhance the resilience of Tunisia’s public procurement system and processes and to empower citizens to keep their local public services accountable. In parallel, it supports civil society-led initiatives to help address the needs of the most vulnerable.

Public procurement

Public procurement and service delivery is improves through:

  • coaching staff of three key pilot institutions (Sahloul Hospital in Sousse, SONEDE and the Ministry of Defence) to implement more efficient procurement procedures
  • the development of two e-learning modules to support public buyers and suppliers in using the e-procurement platform TUNEPS
  • the conception of videos to facilitate the registration of foreign suppliers on TUNEPS
  • coaching of municipal staff, elected officials, citizens, private sector representatives and CSOs in the six target municipalities on public procurement principles
  • the creation of a dashboard to facilitate price tracking of essential goods across the three target governorates

Citizen feedback

The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges of responsiveness, accountability and equitability for local governments in terms of delivery of critical goods and services. The project thus supported the creation of three separate citizen feedback mechanisms in each of the six priority municipalities:

These mechanisms helped promote effective and transparent local governance, stronger local democratic institutions and greater citizen trust towards local institutions

Civil society

Civil society organisations are important actors especially in support of community life and the delivery of essential goods and services to the most vulnerable. The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed the importance of joint initiatives between local governments and civil society in this effort.

The project empowered 12 most promising CSO-led initiatives to deliver assistance to the most vulnerable in response to COVID-19 in the six municipalities, through:

  • coaching on project design, fundraising and implementation
  • the delivery of technical and financial support in the implementation.

The initiatives of the “Civil Society Supports” Programme covered a wide range of sectors including gender-based violence, food security, the prevention of waterborne diseases, youth unemployment, the elementary education of vulnerable children, access to health services, public transportation, etc.



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For more information about the project, please contact Amira TLILI, Policy Analyst and Project Co-ordinator, [email protected]

For more information about the OECD’s past cooperation with the United Kingdom in Tunisia, please visit the Good Governance and Anti-Corruption in Tunisia and the Youth Policy Shapers project pages.