Globally approved containment measures implemented with minimal adaptation to local contexts widened inequalities, putting the most vulnerable at greater risk of social and economic impacts of COVID-19
Nairobi, July 19th, 2021: Measures put in place to respond to COVID-19 in Kenya and Uganda have worsened social and economic inequalities and exposed vulnerable populations to suffering in the wake of the pandemic.
According to two studies conducted by Amref Health Africa in collaboration with the University of Southern California (USC) Institute on Inequalities in Global Health, the desire to control the pandemic led to regressive pandemic response measures that were not well tailored to the local contexts of the two countries. These measures, including physical distancing, imposition of travel restrictions, and curfews, exacerbated societal inequalities against the backdrop of inadequate emergency preparedness to cushion ordinary citizens.
The studies, titled Country Case Study: Equity in COVID-19 Mitigation and Policy Responses (Kenya and Uganda), pay particular attention to human rights and equity and note that pandemic response in both countries is driven by political elite with limited participation of or regard for some of the most marginalised groups. They also reveal that many non-state actors are involved in the response, but with limited coordination with the state.
As a result, COVID-19 preventive measures disproportionately affect those of low socioeconomic status, most of whom are not reached by social safety net programmes. This has led to increased poverty and food insecurity, infringement on human rights through, for example, police brutality and an increase in sexual and gender-based violence, inability to access basic services such as health, education and justice and erosion of trust in the government.
“At the policy level, not much attention has been given to the vulnerable groups, and there is little evidence of the government using data to direct resources and augment efforts to reach those who are being left behind. For example, millions of informal sector workers have lost valuable sources of income, while the elderly and people with disabilities have suffered more as those they depend on sink into poverty,” said Dr. Shiphrah Kuria, Regional Program Manager, RMNCAH & Nutrition, Amref Health Africa, during the launch of the studies.
While a survey of adults in Nairobi and Mombasa in late March 2021 indicated that perceptions of the government response were largely positive (61%), 43% of those surveyed said they did not trust the information provided by the Kenyan government, with young adults being more likely to be sceptical of national leadership.
‘‘Even prior to COVID-19, inequalities existed in both countries, exposing already marginalised and vulnerable populations to the disproportionate impact of public health emergencies. These studies provide us with reliable data on the societal inequalities that have been aggravated by COVID-19; data that will inform strategies to address the challenges presented by COVID-19 while creating minimal harm,’’ said Dr. Meshack Ndirangu, Country Director, Amref Health Africa in Kenya.
The studies recommend greater and consistent investment in the health system, food supply chain and social protection mechanisms; economic empowerment to overcome pandemic-related shocks; providing mechanisms for accountability at every level; and meaningful involvement of civil society in health emergency response to ensure inclusive representation of all, especially marginalized groups.
Notes to Editors
About Amref Health Africa
Amref Health Africa, headquartered in Kenya, is the largest Africa-based International Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO). With a focus on increasing sustainable health access, Amref runs programmes in over 35 countries in Africa, with lessons learnt over 60 years of engagement with governments, communities and partners. Amref Health Africa also engages in programme development, fundraising, partnership, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, and has offices in Europe and North America as well as subsidiaries: Amref Flying Doctors, Amref Enterprises and the Amref International University.
For more information contact:
Elizabeth (Lizz) Ntonjira
Global Communication Director
Amref Health Africa