COVID-19 pain and shattered dreams

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UN Women says that the global cost of violence against women had previously been estimated at approximately US$ 1.5 billion adding that figure can only increase in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. INFOGRAPHIC/UN

By PATRICK MAYOYO

Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya, Kevin had outlined his New Year dreams and a personal development plan.

First he had identified a 10-acre parcel of land he wanted to apply a loan to buy to venture into commercial farming and thereafter built his dream home where he will retire and concentrate on farming.

After all, he had learnt hat commercial farming was the next frontier to create rural millionaires.

But these dreams and plans were to be shattered when the government announced the first COVID-19 case in the country that was subsequently followed a curfew, lockdowns and a raft of other health protocols to curb the spread of the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The first case of COVID-19 in Kenya was reported on March 13th, 2020. Soon after, the government took several measures to curb the spread of the virus and to address its health effects, including a dawn to dusk curfew, restrictions on public gatherings, closing of schools, recommendations to work from home, and social distancing measures.  As fears of widespread infection mounted, movement in and out of Nairobi was also prohibited.

VIDEO/WHO

Immediately after these developments his employer informed him to start working from home as part of the new health measures that included social-distancing, clean your hands often and limit social gatherings among other things.

After working from home for a month, Kevin received a memo from his immediate boss informing him that due to a hostile business environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic that included loss of business and dwindling revenues, the company had decided to effect a 30 percent salary cut to all employees.

As a public relations officer he knew as they say, things were getting thick. The memo added that the company was going to continue reviewing the situation and if the business environment was not going to improve, more drastic measures to save the business would be taken.

And as a result, it was no surprise when the company issued another memo warning of declaring some employees redundant due to the worsening business environment as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc as the number of those contracting and dying from the disease continued to grow around the globe.

Another day he woke-up to the shocking news of the meltdown of the capital markets. Kevin scanned through his stock market share certificates and pinched himself. He had lost a whooping Ksh 10 million (US$ 100,000) after the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a freefall in share prices.

The emerging developments told Kevin one thing; that COVID-19 pandemic had not only shattered his dreams and plans but had turned his life upside down and caused him untold suffering.

He knew his job was on the line and the staff meeting his employer had called was going to be the defining moment in his life. What worried him most were the commitments he had undertaken because of his status as a permanent and pensionable employee who was going to retire at 60 years old in line with the company’s human resource policies and regulations.

The house he stayed in risked being auctioned because he had taken a 20 years mortgage and he was paying in excess of Sh 100,000 or (US$ 1,000) per month to service this obligation, his two children were going to a high-cost private school where he paid Sh 200,000 per term (US$ 2,000) school fees.

At least on this front he had some breathing space because schools had also been suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic he consoled himself. But he knew things would be different when schools re-open.

However, of all the things that bothered him was his 2020 dreams and personal development plans that included buying a farm, building his dream retirement home and starting a farming enterprise through a loan scheme. Alas! All this had evaporated into thin air due to the coronavirus he cursed.

As he walked into the all-staff meeting room called by his employer to decide the fate of those employees to be declared redundant, Kevin was sweating profusely.

He knew all was not well for him because during his appraisal meeting with his immediate supervisor they argued and quarreled over his performance and this was a clear indication he was going to be among those employees to be sacrificed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what troubled him most was not the realization that he was about to lose his job, but the near impossibility of getting another job soon as a result of the prevailing economic situation.

Kevin knew his wife well. She was not the type to entertain a man who cannot put food on the table leave alone who can expect her to feed him. He looked at his last month’s pay slip and felt his heart miss a beat. If he was going to be declared redundant this was going to be the end of him.

When he finally received his redundancy letter from the company’s human resource manager, he felt his heart sink as various thoughts raced through his head.

His close friend Deno who had also received his redundancy letter and was privy to the difficult financial situation Kevin was in decided to whisk him away.

They ended up at their popular pub called Whispers to drown their miseries away with a drink before mapping out their next course of action. But this turned out to be the beginning of Kevin’s slide into depression, which was followed by the disintegration of his family and his committing of suicide.

Today, the World has witnessed more than six million coronavirus related deaths, more than 528 million cases have been reported and more than 498 million people have recovered from the deadly disease.

Coronavirus and mental health

Doctors attending to a patient. PHOTO/WHO

Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown. So it is normal and understandable that people are experiencing fear in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report by UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) titled “ Mental Health and COVID-19: Early evidence of the pandemic’s impact” says the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people around the world while also raising concerns of increased suicidal behaviour.

The study adds that access to mental health services has been severely impeded, although, no comprehensive summary of the current data on these impacts has until now been made widely available.

Key findings of the report shows that there was a significant increase in mental health problems in the general population in the first year of the pandemic, though data are mixed, younger age, female gender and pre-existing health conditions were often reported risk factors.

The study adds that further research on mental health and COVID-19 among specific at-risk populations and in Low and Middle Income Counties (LMICs) is needed.

Another study also by WHO shows that in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25 percent.

GRAPHIC/WHO

The brief also highlights who has been affected and summarizes the effect of the pandemic on the availability of mental health services and how this has changed during the pandemic.

The brief shows that concerns about potential increases in mental health conditions had already prompted 90 percent of countries surveyed to include mental health and psychosocial support in their COVID-19 response plans, but major gaps and concerns remain.

“The information we have now about the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s mental health is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.”

One major explanation for the increase in mental health complications is the unprecedented stress caused by the social isolation resulting from the pandemic. Linked to this were constraints on people’s ability to work, seek support from loved ones and engage in their communities.

Loneliness, fear of infection, suffering and death for oneself and for loved ones, grief after bereavement and financial worries have also all been cited as stressors leading to anxiety and depression. Among health workers, exhaustion has been a major trigger for suicidal thinking the study notes.

The brief, which is informed by a comprehensive review of existing evidence about the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and mental health services, and includes estimates from the latest Global Burden of Disease  of Disease study, shows that the pandemic has affected the mental health of young people and that they are disproportionally at risk of suicidal and self-harming behaviors’.

COVID-19 increased depression cases. DATA/WHO

It also indicates that women have been more severely impacted than men and that people with pre-existing physical health conditions, such as asthma, cancer and heart disease, were more likely to develop symptoms of mental disorders.

Data suggests that people with pre-existing mental disorders do not appear to be disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. Yet, when these people do become infected, they are more likely to suffer hospitalization, severe illness and death compared with people without mental disorders. People with more severe mental disorders, such as psychoses, and young people with mental disorders, are particularly at risk.

This increase in the prevalence of mental health problems has coincided with severe disruptions to mental health services, leaving huge gaps in care for those who need it most.

For much of the pandemic, services for mental, neurological and substance use conditions were the most disrupted among all essential health services reported by WHO Member States. Many countries also reported major disruptions in life-saving services for mental health, including for suicide prevention.

By the end of 2021 the situation had somewhat improved but today too many people remain unable to get the care and support they need for both pre-existing and newly developed mental health conditions.

Unable to access face-to-face care, many people have sought support online, signaling an urgent need to make reliable and effective digital tools available and easily accessible. However, developing and deploying digital interventions remains a major challenge in resource-limited countries and settings.

Since the early days of the pandemic, WHO and partners have worked to develop and disseminate resources in multiple languages and formats to help different groups cope with and respond to the mental health impacts of COVID-19.

Data on coronavirus cases in Kenya as at May 28, 2022. GRAPHIC/MOH

The Organization has worked with partners, including other United Nations agencies, international nongovernmental organizations and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, to lead an interagency mental health and psychosocial response to COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, WHO  has also worked to promote the integration of mental health and psychosocial support across and within all aspects of the global response.

WHO Member States have recognized the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and are taking action. WHO’s most recent pulse survey on continuity of essential health services indicated that 90% of countries are working to provide mental health and psychosocial support to COVID-19 patients and responders alike.

In March this year, Kenya lifted its remaining COVID-19 pandemic restrictions including a ban on large indoor gatherings such as religious services and a requirement to present a negative COVID-19 test for arriving air passengers.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said although Kenyans should continue observing public health measures such as handwashing and social distancing, face masks are no longer mandatory in public and lifted all quarantine measures for confirmed Covid-19 cases with immediate effect.

COVID-19’s economic devastation

The Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) President, Richard Ngatia. PHOTO/KNCCI

A stroll in downtown Nairobi reveals the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Kenyan economy.

Some of the once booming bars and restaurants in Kenya’s capital city are no more. A postcard of this economic meltdown is the once iconic Chinese Restaurant Panda along Kaunda Street.

Immediately after the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020, the restaurant closed its doors and up to now it remains shut. Many other restaurants and businesses that were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic either still remain closed or have been taken over by new investors who are trying their luck to see how things will go.

The Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) President, Richard Ngatia, said COVID-19 pandemic had an unprecedented impact on the Kenyan economy, including massive job losses, shattered economy and livelihoods.

Mr Ngatia said this resulted in the Kenyan government crafting of major interventions to help households and businesses remain afloat. He said Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani, introduced several policy measures targeted at helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), among others, to get back to their footing.

He said Treasury moved to create the Credit Guarantee Scheme, to be financed at the tune of Sh100 billion to ensure SMEs not only access credit but also at affordable rates due to the minimal risks lending to SMEs poses to lenders.

Treasury also set aside Sh3 billion seed capital to operationalise the Credit Guarantee Scheme to reduce risk in lending small businesses.

According to a World Bank study, the economic and social disruptions induced by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic have eroded progress in poverty reduction in Kenya, forcing an estimated two million more Kenyans into poverty.

The 22nd edition of the Kenya Economic Update, Navigating the Pandemic, released in November 2020 that used data to track the impact of the crisis on firms and households, found that the pandemic and measures to mitigate the spread of the virus created multiple challenges for Kenya’s private sector, with severe consequences for household jobs and incomes.

“COVID-19 poses an unprecedented shock to the economy, disrupting economic activity,” said Keith Hansen, World Bank Country Director for Kenya. “The government, with the help of partners, needs to ensure that the shock remains temporary, by targeting support to the most vulnerable affected households.”

Data analysis from two parallel rapid response surveys conducted by the World Bank and partners confirmed that private sector firms faced lower demand due to reduced consumption and demand for inputs.

This was compounded by disrupted supply chains, limiting access to intermediate goods, labour and sales channels. Local businesses also faced weaker access to cash and credit and uncertainty is dampening prospects for investment and innovation.

The surveys revealed that the negative impact of COVID-19 on the private sector trickled down to household welfare via reduced job opportunities and lower earnings. Unemployment almost doubled compared to its pre-COVID level.

Wage workers–and especially women–who were still employed faced a reduction in working hours and earnings. Almost 1 in 3 household-run businesses were not operating during the time of the surveys, with revenues decreasing across all sectors.

Another report, Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Financial Markets: a Global Perspective,  the spread of COVID-19 is a major shock for the global economies and has also led to a severe drop in the stock market.

It says on February 3, 2020, the Shanghai stock market fell by 8 percent and many analysts and researchers have linked the dropped in global financial markets with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Stock market performance reveals the impact of accelerating trends, growing gaps between the winners and the rest, and a flow of value to mega-players.

Remittances fell, and few households benefitted from direct cash assistance. Youth were also negatively affected by the pandemic, with revenues and profits strongly reduced for micro-enterprises run by young entrepreneurs, with only few of them making use of government and non-governmental organizations (NGO) support programs.

How COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. GRAPHIC/STATISTA

“Kenya has made considerable progress with poverty reduction over the last years, but COVID-19 has destroyed the livelihoods of many Kenyans, pushing an estimated two million people into poverty,” said Utz Pape, World Bank Senior Economist in the Poverty & Equity Global Practice of the World Bank. “A swift and well-targeted response is needed to protect livelihoods and avoid trapping more people in long-term poverty.”

Another study, The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Small Retail Shops in Nairobi, Kenya done by Georgetown University, showed that Kenya’s international trade performance, its financial and commodity markets, and the entire macroeconomic environment, were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forty-four percent of the respondents in the survey reported that someone in their household had lost a job due to the pandemic and of these, two-thirds (nearly 31 percent) reported the loss as temporary, while one-third (nearly 14 percent) said the loss was permanent.

Nearly half of the respondents reported small price increases with an additional 9% reporting large increases to prices of essential commodities.

However, another report released by the World Bank in December 2021 showed that Kenya’s economy has demonstrated resilience to the COVID-19 shock, with output in the first half of the year rising above pre-pandemic levels.

In 2021 as a whole, gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow by 5%, one of the faster recoveries among Sub-Saharan African countries.

According to the 24th edition of Kenya Economic Update, “From Recovery to Better Jobs,” growth has been supported by rebounds in industry and, especially, services.

Agricultural output, however, fell by 0.5% year on year in the first half of 2021 following a particularly strong performance in 2020, partly due to below-average rains. Demand-side recovery has been supported by a revival in private consumption, against a backdrop of improving employment conditions and household incomes.

“Kenya’s economy has shown considerable resilience to the enormous shock of the pandemic, and this year is expected to post one of the stronger growth rebounds in the region thanks to diversified sources of growth and sound economic policies and management,” said Keith Hansen, World Bank Country Director for Kenya. “However, poverty has increased, and the buffers and coping mechanisms of households, firms, and the public finances have been depleted.”

The study indicated that economic activity in Kenya has continued to adapt to the pandemic and associated restrictions.

COVID-19 austerity measures increased inequality levels

The public queue for coronavirus vaccination. PHOTO/WHO

The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a huge blow to every country, and many governments have struggled to meet their populations’ urgent needs during the crisis.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has stepped in to offer extra support to a large number of countries during the pandemic. However, Oxfam’s analysis shows that as of 15 March 2021, 85 percent of the 107 COVID-19 loans negotiated between the IMF and 85 governments indicate plans to undertake austerity once the health crisis abates.

The findings in this briefing paper show that the IMF is systematically encouraging countries to adopt austerity measures once the pandemic subsides, risking a severe spike in already increased inequality levels.

A variety of studies have revealed the uneven distribution of the burden of austerity, which is more likely to be shouldered by women, low-income households and vulnerable groups, while the wealth of the richest people increases.

Data on COVID-19 vaccination in Kenya as of May 28, 2022. GRAPHIC/MOH

Oxfam joins global institutions and civil society in urging governments worldwide and the IMF to focus their energies instead on a people-centred, just and equal recovery that will fight inequality and not fuel it. Austerity will not ‘build back better’.

Half a billion people are at risk of being pushed into poverty as a result of economic impacts of the coronavirus. From the outset, the IMF has warned that the impact of COVID-19 “will be profound with increased inequality leading to economic and social upheaval”.

The Oxfam paper written by Nona Tamale, has revealed that in in 2020, billionaires’ wealth increased by a staggering $3.9 trillion, while workers lost $3.7 trillion in labour income during the same period.

The gap between the top 10 percent and bottom 80 percent has widened, and inequalities between high- and low-income countries have become more pronounced, especially in light of the diverging recoveries, as rich countries are recovering faster while low- and middle-income countries are still struggling to secure vaccines for their populations.

The pandemic has aggravated existing inequalities, disproportionately affecting Black people, women, people living in poverty and other vulnerable groups, including refugees, migrants, people with disabilities, older people and Indigenous Peoples.

The International Labour Organization reports that the ongoing pandemic has had a more drastic impact on global labour markets than the global financial crisis of 2008, increasing global unemployment almost sevenfold in 2020 and resulting in a significant fall in employment incomes.

Both of these outcomes have been unequally felt by women – who faced at least $800bn in lost income globally in 20208 – especially those on low pay and workers in low-skilled jobs.

While the IMF’s initial advice to governments was to spend as much as required to mitigate the severe impacts of the crisis, Oxfam’s research finds that the IMF is encouraging countries to go down the path of austerity after the pandemic subsides.

The IMF has historically advised countries facing high deficits and debt levels to adopt fiscal consolidation, despite strong criticism from other global actors, civil society and academia about its dangers, in particular that it has been shown to fuel inequality, a finding consistent with the IMF’s own research.

The most commonly proposed austerity measures in the IMF loans include wage bill cuts and freezes (31 countries), increases to or the introduction of value-added tax (VAT) (14 countries), and general public expenditure cuts (55 countries).

As of 15 March 2021, 85 percent of the 107 COVID-19 loans negotiated between the IMF and 85 governments indicate plans to undertake austerity once the health crisis abates. The burden of austerity is unevenly distributed across society. The most severe impacts are likely to be borne by the same sections of society that have been adversely affected by the pandemic – women, low earners and vulnerable groups.

Monthly inflation rates in developed and emerging countries from December 2020 to March 2022(compared to the same month of the previous year). DATA/STATISTA

Resorting to austerity risks undoing even more of the pre-pandemic progress towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDGs 1 and 10 on ending poverty and inequality, respectively. COVID-19 has already increased inequality in countries across the world; austerity would make this worse.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The 17 SDGs are integrated—they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Police harassment and rights violations

Studies show police in Kenya used excessive force against the public while enforcing COVID-19 containment measures. PHOTO/  SCREENSHOT SJCWG GRAFFITI

With the introduction of the COVID-19 containment measures that included one being arrested for not wearing a face-mask, police decided to not only use these measures to extort money from Kenyans who violated them but also expose them to human rights violations.

The US State Department 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices says human rights violations were rampant in Kenya following the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The report says police used excessive force during the enforcement of COVID-19 public health measures that were introduced to curb the spread of the coronavirus after the World Health organization (WHO) declared on March 11, 2020 that the outbreak of COVID-19 had reached global pandemic levels.

Kenya’s NGO Independent Medico-Legal Unit  (IMLU) reported 17 cases of police brutality related to alleged violations of pandemic mitigation protocols. For example, on August 1, 2020, police officers in Embu County allegedly killed two brothers for reportedly violating curfew.

Independent Medico-Legal unit says when the Kenya government crafted and commenced the enforcement measures adopted to curb the spread of the COVID-19, various law enforcement mishaps were highlighted.

Such measures include the enforcement of the curfew, travel restrictions, social distancing and wearing of masks adding these measures restricted various fundamental freedoms such as freedom of movement.

“There was a staggering rise in the number of various cases of police use of excessive force from the commencement of the COVID19 measures,” the NGO says in its report.

It says a classic case of the ills took place on March, 27 2020 when the very first overnight curfew was enforced as at least six people are reported to have died from police violence during the first 10 days of Kenya’s dusk-to-dawn curfew, imposed on March 27, 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19.

“As a response to the cases IMLU handled 68 cases of extrajudicial executions and torture from 15 counties as at 30 October 2020. These included 25 cases of extra-judicial executions and 43 cases of torture or ill-treatment. Of these cases, 58 victims were male while 10 were female,” the report adds.

The NGO adds that out of the 25 cases of deaths caused by extra-judicial execution and torture, IMLU conducted 19 autopsies and prepared forensic and legal documentation which is critical in criminal proceedings and redress mechanisms.

“These subsequently formed the basis of further action by Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) following the referral by IMLU,” it adds.

IMLU notes that state and non-state bodies reported receiving complaints that confirmed abuse of power by the police in contravention of the law.

INFOGRAPHIC/ASIAN-PACIFIC INSTITUTE ON GENDER BASED VIOLENCE.

It adds for instance, KNCHR had by 27 April 2020 registered 117 complaints relating to the pandemic out of which 66 related to use of excessive force by the NPS.

“The figure had risen to 220 complaints by 6th June 2020. Similarly, IPOA reported receiving 93 (21 of them relating to death) complaints against police officers enforcing the by 22 September 2020,” the report shows.

IMLU adds non-state human rights bodies including them, Haki Africa, Kenya Human Rights Commission and Article 19 Eastern Africa reported receiving complaints relating to police excesses and other human rights violations.

Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) said it received 103 complaints of police misconduct while enforcing the curfew, involving 23 deaths and 80 injuries from shootings, assaults, and inhuman treatment since the start of the pandemic.

In one of the cases, IPOA launched an investigation and recommended murder charges against six police officers. As of last year, the case remained in court.

Separately, police officer Duncan Ndiema Ndie continued to face a murder charge in the death of 13-year-old Yassin Moyo, who was shot and killed on the balcony of his family’s home in March 2020. As of last year, this case also was still in court.

Between January and August, the Social Justice Centres Working Group recorded 20 deaths in informal settlements from shootings, beatings, and other violence related to enforcement of COVID-19 measures.

The Social Justice Centres Working Group reported police violence was especially prevalent in informal settlements. The most prevalent form of violence was beatings to disperse traders and other persons in markets after curfew. Monitors also documented incidents involving use of live ammunition, tear gas, sexual violence, and property damage.

How COVID-19 increased gender violence

Executive Director of Collaboration of Women in Development (CWID), Ms Betty Sharon. PHOTO/CWID

COVID-19 pandemic has increased cases of gender based violence (GBV) against women and girls studies by rights activists’ shows.

According to a UN Women report titled The Shadow Pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19, shows that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, intensified following the outbreak of COVID-19.

Globally, even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 1 in 3 women experienced physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner however, data collected following the outbreak of the coronavirus showed an increase in calls to domestic violence helplines in many countries.

The study showed that sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women continued to occur on streets, in public spaces and online while survivors had limited information and awareness about available services and limited access to support services.

The UN Women says globally 243 million women and girls have been subjected to sexual and physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the previous months warning that the number is likely to increase as security, health and money worries heighten tensions and strains are accentuated by cramped and confined living conditions due to COVID-19 pandemic.

In some countries, resources and efforts were diverted from violence against women response to immediate COVID-19 relief.

A study on gender based violence in Nairobi, Kenya among adolescent girls and young women showed that overall, 27.6 percent of adolescent girls and young women experienced intimate partner violence (IPV).

INFOGRAPHIC/ASIAN-PACIFIC INSTITUTE ON GENDER BASED VIOLENCE.

“IPV during the pandemic was associated with work as the primary pre-COVID activity, low social support and partner age difference years,” the study shows.

The study concluded that persistence of intimate partner violence against adolescent girls and young women in Nairobi prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic reflected endemic conditions and pandemic-specific stressors.

“Youth, including unmarried youth, remain a priority population for gender based violence (GBV) prevention and survivor-centred response,” the study notes.

Another study by Oxfam titled The Ignored Pandemic: The Dual Crisis of Gender-Based Violence and COVID-19 says coronavirus devastated efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV) and catalyzed an explosion in global GBV case numbers.

The report says data from 10 countries showed calls to domestic violence or GBV helplines increased by 25 to 111 percent in the first months of the pandemic as women, including trans women, and girls and LGBTQIA+ people were isolated with their abusers and cut off from social networks and essential and life-saving services.

According to the Executive Director of Collaboration of Women in Development (CWID), Ms Betty Sharon, data from different organizations’ shows that women and girls worldwide continue to experience increased gender based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Health protocols introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19 that include working from home and lockdowns that has led to losses in people earning their daily bread has really led to a lot of violence,” she said.

VIDEO/BY SOCIAL JUSTICE CENTRES WORKING GROUP 

Ms Sharon said cases of sexual violence and domestic violence including homicide against women have escalated in Kenya since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

According to data from Healthcare Assistance Kenya, in the months of March and April in 2020 there was a sharp rise by 34 percent in the number of reported gender based violence GBV cases.

Amidst all these the government also lacked sector specific guidelines to ensure availability of comprehensive GBV services and programmes. Ultimately, this led to confusion and large-scale disruption in the availability of GBV services and programmes on the ground.

Quarantine and social isolation have been named as pathways linking pandemics to violence. Close quarters, especially those tied to stressful conditions are linked to stress, fear and even poor mental health, which can in turn increase the likelihood of Violence against women and girls.

“Investments to prevent and respond to violence against women have long been at crisis point,” Ms Sharon says.

Informal settlements residents have experienced even worse disruption of access to essential services as many organization that are social justice centres providing key services withdrew their staff as part of work from home arrangement that the government had ordered.

As countries continue experiencing different coronavirus variants, governments around the world should ensure they put protocols that will promote the economic, social and health wellness of their citizenry in their COVID-19 response plans.

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