The Covid-19 pandemic is impacting people around the world and exacerbating existing inequalities in both high and low-income countries. In developing country contexts, the virus is projected to send millions further into poverty. A combination of factors, including low hospital and health care system capacity, high urban density, poor access to water, and tenuous food security, means that response policies must be carefully designed to consider a wide range of economic and social impacts. The global crisis is also testing the capacity of our institutions and governance systems to respond quickly and effectively.

Building on our experience during the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, we are developing rapid response surveys to inform government policies around the pandemic that can potentially lessen impacts on the most vulnerable populations. The studies cover a diversity of topics including virus awareness, community mobilization, trust in government, access to basic services (food and water), as well as the ability to withstand a lockdown. 

Additional measures seek to understand what aid interventions and messages are more effective in motivating citizens to comply with critical public health measures (e.g., social distancing, hand-washing). Furthermore, fine-grained mobility data and spatial mapping will provide information to government decision-makers and humanitarian responders so they can provide people with the resources they need in order to participate or cooperate. Data will be collected at regular intervals to inform ongoing policies in a rapidly changing context.

We launched the first study, a nationally representative survey, in Sierra Leone, which was designed with input from multiple government agencies to ensure utility and maximize uptake of the results for decision-making. The study in Sierra Leone is a collaboration with the Institute for Governance Reform, in partnership with Sierra Leone’s Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) and Ministry of Finance’s Research and Delivery Division (MoF-RDD). Projects in Nigeria and Uganda, focusing on Covid-19 response in large urban areas, are also underway

This is a rapidly developing project, so if you’re interested in supporting research, data visualization, or policy communications please be in touch (mitgovlab@mit.edu). 

Image from Pixabay.