The far reaching impact of COVID-19 on already vulnerable communities

Patricia Mbao, ZOA-Z Project Coordinator, reports from Zambia

It is almost a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and no community or organization has been spared the brutal economic and social impact. For ZOA’s partners and our beneficiaries COVID-19 has brought a lot of hardships. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic our communities were struggling with their finances due to the big rise in inflation and subsequent price increases for basic goods. This has resulted in many of them migrating to different areas to look for work.   

While coronavirus can affect anyone, it is clear that the most vulnerable in our communities have been affected more, in different ways. Evidence from our monitoring visits show that poorer communities are more badly affected by increasing poverty and protection issues.  

Many girls became pregnant during the COVID-19 lockdown.  The saddest situation is that some girls were impregnated by family members living within the same house.  The girls we talked to attributed their pregnancy to increasing poverty levels and the lockdown.  They informed us that due to restricted movements and a lack of activities and entertainment, they ended up being taken advantage of and for some, ended up indulging in sexual activities as a past-time.  Not being at school or taking part in their usual activities outside of the house meant that more time was spent in their often small houses and because of this they became more vulnerable to their male family members.

The current economic situation in Zambia means that the price of most commodities has gone up with a rising number of households now failing to meet their daily needs. This impacts negatively on the lives of the people we work with. Many people haven’t been able to get back to work, some have been laid off due to COVID-19 and those who still have their jobs are either on half pay or their days of service have been reduced. Those trading from markets have experienced reduced income flow too. 

Orphans and vulnerable children living in places with poor health facilities who were at risk of malnutrition and exploitation before COVID-19 hit have paid the highest price in this disaster. The children, particularly girls, have missed out on learning time in school and this has impacted on their performance.   

The nutritional support that ZOA provides to vulnerable children through our school meal programme has improved school attendance as well as alertness in class and improved exam results.  But with more families being pushed further into poverty our worry is many children will miss school to look for work to help support their families.

It’s now more important than ever before to educate and keep vulnerable children safe.