Stronger together

Written by: UBS Posted: 05/03/2021

BL72_UBS_MarcNightingaleMarc Nightingale (pictured) provides an update on the UBS Optimus Foundation Covid-19 Response Fund

Twenty years ago, we established the UBS Optimus Foundation to partner with our clients and employees and help them to improve the lives of the most vulnerable around the world.

Collaborative effort

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, we mounted a comprehensive response across UBS around the world: supporting small businesses to access emergency funds so they could stay afloat; providing emergency grants to local grassroots organisations to address food insecurity, poverty and isolation in communities in which we have a business presence; and launching the UBS Optimus Foundation Covid-19 Response Fund to mobilise funding for trusted partners working in the world’s most challenging contexts.

Though Covid-19 has affected everyone worldwide, it hasn’t done so equally. In higher income countries with advanced healthcare, sanitation and social support systems, economic and racial disparities exacerbated the virus’s impacts. 

Low- and middle-income countries, which lacked this infrastructure and support, faced significant struggles with the inability to socially distance or work or learn remotely. 

The challenges that have been faced by these countries not only threaten immediate health, but they also threaten to undo decades of hard-won progress in healthcare, education and protection.

From all angles

When the pandemic started, we knew we needed to address the immediate crisis while also helping our existing partners maintain their progress in improving health, education and protection. So, we have been funding programmes based on a three-pronged strategy:

1. Providing acute emergency relief for the most vulnerable. That’s why we’re supporting global organisations with emergency response capacity and experience to intervene based on identified on-the ground needs.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – aka Doctors Without Borders – has been a partner of ours for years. We partnered with them in combatting the 2014 Ebola outbreak. In the last few months, MSF has been making sure that medical teams in more than 70 countries are able to provide lifesaving care and safely manage potential Covid-19 patients. Their much-needed work takes pressure off overstretched health facilities and helps care for vulnerable populations.

2. Offering support for our partners who are implementing impactful programmes at a local level throughout the world. Grants to these partners are allowing them to adapt and implement Covid-19 preparedness, response and recovery efforts. Plus, it’s helping them safeguard the progress they’ve made in recent years.

The Citizens Foundation (TCF) is the largest network of independently operated low-cost schools in Pakistan. TCF hires only female teachers so that parents will send girls to school. And TCF faculty has experience with community outreach to make sure communities understand the value of an education. In response to Covid-19, TCF is protecting continuity of learning through teleschool (on TV and YouTube), activity books, learning packs and community outreach.

3. Helping to fill gaps for low-cost prevention and treatment solutions. Support for organisations providing critical equipment and training is creating capacity for Covid-19 response and building stronger health systems for the future.

Lifebox is a pioneer in creating innovative cross-sector partnerships for safe surgery. Lifebox brings technology, design, manufacturing, distribution and local providers together for effective end-user adapted results. In response to Covid-19, Lifebox is rapidly procuring low-cost pulse oximeters to be deployed to hotspots and leveraging its distribution network to put the devices in the hands of healthcare workers managing acute respiratory illnesses like Covid-19.

BL72_UBS_elbowsPhilanthropy at scale

We believe that philanthropy at scale is best placed to catalyse profound change required to meet these goals. 

By investing with fellow philanthropists, and with UBS often matching funding, donations are leveraged to have an outsized impact. Together we’ve raised more than $30m supporting 48 partners working in 35 countries to achieve:

• Nearly 60,000 health workers trained
• 175 health facilities with improved quality of care
• More than 13 million units of personal protective equipment procured and distributed to frontline health workers

• More than 10 million children reached with remote learning models
• Over 13,000 education professionals trained or supported

• 7,195 families with children supported with resources
• Over 5,500 children living in institutions 
   kept safe and protected
• More than 70,000 individuals vulnerable to human trafficking supported. 

The global rollout of a vaccine programme has provided the world with some much-needed good news. However, the journey back to a degree of normality for everyone is still going to be a difficult one and the effects of the pandemic are likely to continue long into the future. 

At UBS, we will continue to use the power of collective philanthropy to fund global projects to support and improve the lives of those most affected. 

Further information

If you would like more information on the UBS Optimus Foundation, please contact: 
Marc Nightingale, Client Advisor UBS AG, Jersey Branch 
1, IFC, St Helier, Jersey JE2 3BX 
Tel: 01534 701173 

UBS AG, Jersey Branch is authorised and regulated by the Jersey Financial Services Commission for the conduct of banking, funds and investment business. UBS AG, Jersey Branch is a branch of UBS AG (a public company limited by shares, incorporated in Switzerland whose registered offices are at Aeschenvorstadt 1, CH-4051, Basel and Bahnhofstrasse 45, CH-8001 Zurich) with its principal place of business at 1 IFC, St Helier, Jersey JE2 3BX. Terms and Conditions are available upon request. © UBS 2021. All rights reserved.

• This advertising feature was first published in the March/April 2021 edition of Businesslife magazine


How do you reach children who don’t have access to the internet?

Quality for every student
We’ve been partnering with Rising Academies since they started in Sierra Leone in 2014 where, early on, they had the opportunity to provide emergency education to children kept out of school by the Ebola epidemic. By using an engaging curriculum, intensive teacher coaching and actionable data, Rising Academies helps teachers and school leaders bring quality to every classroom. 

Innovating through low-cost private schools they own and operate, Rising Academies then takes those learnings to governments and other partners to improve the quality of their schools at scale. They have grown to serve 50,000 students across more than 160 schools in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana.

Scaling over the air
When schools closed across Liberia in March, radio emerged as the only platform that could bring lessons to students at scale. 

In Liberia and Sierra Leone, only one out of every eight individuals have access to the internet, so online learning is impossible. But radio reaches about 70% of the population.

We quickly offered support to help them launch their distance-learning solution. Rising on Air redesigned their proven curriculum for delivery via radio and SMS. Rising on Air offers a free 20-week programme of lessons in English, French and Arabic. Pre-recorded audio and scripts can be adapted, modified, translated or recorded in appropriate accents by partners on the ground. 

Safety messages regarding Covid-19 are woven into the lessons. In addition, wraparound content is delivered via SMS and phone. 

Highlights of the initiative
• More than 10 million children already reached
• 35 organisations partnering
• 25 countries reached
• Five national ministries of education participating – Chad, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone


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