Social distancing is a luxury few can afford in Africa. Millions live in informal settlements: shanty towns and displaced persons camps. Large families are common and often share one small, cramped room. In Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, 250,000 of the world’s poorest people live on just 2.5 sq km of land.
The United Nations has issued stark warnings; the shock of COVID-19 on vulnerable African nations risks people falling deeper into poverty. Lockdowns and travel restrictions threaten food supply chains. Many Africans rely on informal work; being unable to earn a wage means being unable to eat.
Travel restrictions are being felt acutely by pastoralists – the Karamojong in Uganda, the Turkana and the Maasai in Kenya – who depend on being able to move their livestock around, in search of water, for their livelihoods.
Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of COVID-19. Many school children already face obstacles attending school and the ability to learn is further hindered by the stress of food insecurity and health. With schools closed, the most vulnerable have no access to education. School materials or digital devices are out of reach, deepening the learning divide between children in low and high-income homes.
This virus does discriminate. As Irish president Michael D Higgins recently noted, “While the coronavirus is a global problem,and requires a global response – societies differ in their capacity to respond, such as those in Africa who are in such a perilous position in terms of resources that might be utilised in responding to Covid-19.”
While Covid-19 is a global threat, it is the most vulnerable who are most at risk.Donate