THE NEGATIVE IMPACT OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC ON AFRICAN GIRLS (COVID-19 CASE STUDY)

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THE NEGATIVE IMPACT OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC ON AFRICAN GIRLS (COVID-19 CASE STUDY)

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    Pandemics are large-scale outbreaks of infectious disease that can greatly increase morbidity and mortality over a wide geographic area and cause significant economic, social, and political disruption. Evidence suggests that the likelihood of pandemics has increased over the past century because of increased global travel and integration, urbanization, changes in land use, and greater exploitation of the natural environment1. As such, the impact of a global pandemic has greater consequences in the 20th century than ever before due to the globalizing effect of fast ways of travel. On a global scale, Children generally pose the most vulnerable age group during the spread of a deadly disease or during outbreaks of war as their immediate survival and growth is not only linked to that of their careers but also on the serenity of their environment. Female children in socio-economically and culturally challenging regions of the world such as the contemporary Sub-Saharan African society has more than double the impact suffered by their male counterparts during the outbreak of a pandemic for a variety of reasons. This article will take a look at some of these reasons; take an overview into the impact of the corona virus pandemic on the girl child in this region of the world and proffer some solutions that can mitigate the impacts.

    BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC

    The 2019–20 corona virus pandemic is an ongoing pandemic of the corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)3. The outbreak started in WuhanHubei Province, China, in December 20192. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and recognized it as a pandemic on 11 March 2020. As of 3 April 2020, more than 1,060,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in more than 190 countries and 200 territories, resulting in more than 56,700 deaths. And more than 223,000 people who have recovered3.

    What are the impacts of the pandemic on the girl child in Sub-Saharan Africa?

    The girl-child is a biological female offspring from birth to eighteen (18) years of age. This is the age before one becomes a young adult. This period covers the crèche, nursery or early childhood (0-5 years), primary (6-12 years) and secondary school (12-18 years). During this period, the young child is totally under the care of the adult who may be her parents or guardians and older siblings. It is made up of infancy, childhood, early and late adolescence stages of development. During this period, the child is malleable, builds and develops her personality and character.

    1. Health Impact:

    The spread of the corona virus pandemic has brought serious health challenges to children and specifically, the girl child. Naturally, girl children are more caring and tend to take care of their parents and siblings when they are down with the disease and are exposed in the process to the virus themselves. The spread of the pandemic has been projected to be more devastating in cultures like Sub-Saharan Africa where girls are sent out at an early age to the streets to fend for themselves and their families through hawking or prostitution. This exposes the girls to contract the virus and possibly spread the virus even further to their families and other members of the society.

    1. Economic Impact:

    More than 80% of rural populations rely on subsistence farming in West and Central Africa. The 2020 off-season harvests should be reaching markets and providing substantial incomes of smallholder farmers. However, market closure, restriction on internal and cross-border movement limits market access. Planting period starts in May/June for the main agricultural season but, the Covid-19 pandemic is forcing governments to cut agricultural expenses and to prioritize health-related expenditures. If the above-mentioned restrictions continue, farmers will not have access to the market to buy good quality seeds and fertilizers5. Hence, a lot of families will be forced to remain indoors and unable to look to their source of livelihood. This further impoverishes the society.

    1. Psycho-Social impact

    During this pandemic, families in many Sub-Saharan African countries are required to stay indoors and socially isolate. This often creates very unpleasant experiences including the separation from loved ones, the loss of freedom, uncertainty over disease status, and boredom can, on some occasions, create dramatic effects on a person. As a result of the closure of schools and the resulting boredom, girls stay at home and may be pushed by anxiety, fear and depression into a mental breakdown and in worse cases, suicidal tendencies. Also, cases of child abuse have also been projected across the continent, where older adults tend to take advantage of girls to marry them or abuse them (like rape or defilement, or domestic violence where a father beats his wife and children at home). To solve this problem, efforts to sensitize the public and allay their fears and anxiety through the media have to be increased and law enforcement agencies should be put on alert in places where child abuse is common or highest. Parents also have a huge role to play in guaranteeing the safety of their girl children.

    1. Impact on Education

    Most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the  COVID-19 pandemic. These nationwide closures are impacting over 91% of the world’s student population. Several other countries have implemented localized closures impacting millions of additional learners. Children are forced to stay at home with no clear date of their return to school. They are also as a result, separated from their peers and friends which hampers their mental development in many ways. To reduce the effect of this problem, affected countries should in their efforts to mitigate the immediate impact of school closures, particularly for more vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, adopt ways of facilitating the continuity of education for all through remote learning.

    REFERENCES

    1. https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse
    2. Andersen, S C, and H S Nielsen (2019), “Learning from Performance Information”, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
    3. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30460-8/fulltext
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