No-one could have predicted what has unfolded in 2020. The world has been gripped with fear as cases and death rates soared; and now not for the first time as sadly many countries gear up again for a second spike. The impact on life and work has been manageable for some, but devastating for many.
In early 2020, although there was news of a new virus, we certainly weren’t anticipating a full-blown global crisis. As the impact of the virus and its disruption to life as we knew it became clearer, the whole team kicked into reactive mode. We responded quickly by setting up our COVID-19 Response Fund and reached out to all our partners in Ghana, DR Congo, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda to better understand national responses to the crisis and the effect on the communities we work with. It was important for them to tell us exactly how we could most effectively support them as they addressed the most immediate needs in their communities.
In Ghana, the early childhood for street-connected children are still unable to reopen
What’s becoming clearer now is the protracted nature of the pandemic, and the need to adapt to a new reality of responding to the crisis. Everyone has been affected in some way, however the outlook is particularly bleak for people living in extreme poverty. We know from our continuous engagement with the communities we work with, that the ‘long-term’ nature of COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on their lives, exacerbating inequalities on several levels. This is especially the case for people who face multiple vulnerabilities for example because they are a girl, a girl with a disability, or a girl with a disability who finds herself socially isolated and at greater risk of exploitation and abuse.
It is estimated that lockdowns and directives on social distancing could push up to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, and some experts believe that it could take up to 10 years to recover. For many of our families who depend on the informal market for their livelihood, restrictions on movement has meant a significant reduction in household income. This in turn has meant little or no money to spend on food, health or education. Although schools in many of our target countries are still closed, we are expecting to see high attrition rates as many parents are forced to take their children out of school because they can no longer afford to cover fees or ancillary costs. When a choice has to be made, we anticipate further gender inequalities where boys will be favoured over girls who would be expected to help more with household chores, and in some cases, will be forced into early marriages to alleviate the economic pressure on their families. Prolonged lockdown and school closures have also taken away ‘safe spaces’ for many children, where they could before convene with peers and learn. For some of the children we support, at our ECD centres in Ghana for example, it is where they have access to a nutritious meal.
The long-term impact on nutrition, education and mental health on children and their families cannot be underestimated. We have already achieved so much through collaboration with our fantastic partners and through your amazing support over the years. There is now such an urgent need for us to act quickly to ensure that we do not reverse the gains that have been made over recent years, and stop the pandemic from taking away children’s futures.
Director of Programme Development