COVID-19: Options to protect children in low income countries
The Coronavirus does not discriminate between the rich and poor communities. In low income countries, the cities have greater vulnerability due to high population densities with relatively poorer housing arrangement. This makes social distancing almost impossible. Worse still, these countries do not have the health infrastructure required to support emergency care for a large number of people simultaneously requiring this support. Children are likely to be more affected either due to contracting the virus, loss of caregivers or loss of protective environment such schools and playgrounds. There is therefore a need to enhance protection of children by promoting preventive approaches in the disease management and supporting families to secure livelihoods.
According to Prof. O’rielly of the Medical University of South Carolina and an AICS Associate consultant, “the basic logical principles of trying to contain an epidemic are really pretty simple and straightforward, the devil of course is in the detail. They vary in how they apply and the agent that they’re being applied to. These are basically trying to minimize spread by identifying how it’s being spread and try to minimize contact and the second is try to minimize the consequences by providing treatment to those people who are already infected.”
He adds that “my number one message is that COVID responses in low income countries need to focus on social justice, the standard methods that are used to contain epidemics don’t work very well in the absence of social justice. We’ve also learned a number of lessons from other epidemics in Africa for instance we know that we need to engage local authorities because they can be an effective barrier to any kind of prevention activities that may be partaken in their communities, they can block things.”
Dr. Francis Oloo, a spatial data specialists and founder of Geopsy Research and another AICS Associate, “…geographic characteristics like population density, inequality in access to health care and income, vulnerability in terms of age and other ailments can fuel or even cause the impact of this virus to be more severe. There’s no strategy that fits every country for example South Korea and Vietnam have been able to manage the disease without hard lockdowns.”
These challenges that are specific to low income settings exasperate the need for clear guidelines for care of children in COVID-19 situation.
Key elements of a child protection sensitive sensitive COVID-19 response are:
- Evidence informed through disaggregated children data
- Community driven response with local groups and solutions applied
- We must plan for effective case management systems in the best interest of children
- Reduce vulnerability to both the new infections and negative effectives of COVID-19 to children and their households, such as increased violence and risk of hunger.
Here is a link to a video link to a virtual meeting with AICS Experts panel on COVID 19 Response in Low Income Settings and Mapping Civil Society Contribution to Community Driven COVID-19 Response in Kenya.