International research reveals the extent of the COVID-19 impact on world’s poorest countries

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a widespread and severe impact on some of the world’s poorest people, according to international research which surveyed people in 23 countries.

The research, undertaken by the eight member organisations of Alliance2015, measured the impact of the pandemic across the areas of food, income, access to health and education, and community dynamics.  The first-hand experience of 13,820 people was sought by researchers.

Over 40% of all respondents experienced a decrease in food quantity and quality. Some 90% said their ability to earn income was worse than before the pandemic.

The experience varied according to the respondent’s location (urban, rural, peri-urban or camps), country and individual factors such as gender, household composition and the main source of income.  However, overall older people, those with disabilities, women and children were the worst affected.

A staff of Concern Worldwide checks registration documents for Guillaume Ysmara (75), during a distribution of hygiene kits in Cite Soleil slum, a district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Dieu Nalio Chery/ For Concern Worldwide

While there was awareness of the virus and the steps necessary to protect themselves against it, masks and soap were not affordable for up to a third of respondents.  In the case of up to a quarter of respondents, masks were not available.   Large household numbers meant that social distancing was not possible for 38% of respondents living in camps.

Respondents who reported a decrease in food quantity were highest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Ecuador and Kenya.  Those who considered that the quality of food they had, had reduced since the pandemic, were highest in Kenya, Ecuador, Malawi and Afghanistan.

Mary Ambweni HSA (Health Surveillance Assistant) at a heath centre in Lilongwe (Malawi) distributing soap to beneficiaries. Photo: Concern Worldwide

The analysis of respondents who reported a fall in income, showed that casual labourers and petty traders were hardest hit. The research also found that three-quarters of respondents who received remittances said these payments had either decreased or had stopped completely during the pandemic.

All main income sectors are heavily affected by COVID-19 measures. Surprisingly, the agricultural sector was also heavily affected in terms of reduced income, whereby  as main reason loss of opportunities to sell agricultural products was stated.

Among the other key findings were:

  • Two-thirds of respondents who live in households with children consider their access to education has reduced, compared to the time before Covid-19;
  • One-third of those surveyed considered that the health and well-being of their family were worse now when compared to prior to the pandemic;
  • Up to 70% of respondents reported an increase in conflicts within their communities and their families.

“The pandemic is undermining the resilience of communities globally, across all regions and socio-economic groups,” Antonia Potter Prentice, Alliance2015 Director said. “All Alliance2015 members have adapted their programmes and initiated new activities to address the crisis in the short, long and medium term.”

Data from the survey will be used to meet a number of key needs such as shaping project design, development agenda, positioning, advocacy and dialogue with multiple stakeholder groups.

“The research will help Allilance2015 members augment community resilience through better targeting and customised design of interventions,” Antonia Potter Prentice said. “It is an important contribution to global understanding of community resilience and provides the basis for valuable longitudinal assessments to feed programme design over time.”


The main findings of the research can be consulted here.