International Development Committee inquiry: secondary impacts of coronavirus in developing countries

Evidence submission from the Institute of Development Studies


The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) is a global research and learning organisation for equitable and sustainable change. IDS is ranked best international development policy think tank (2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index) and first in the world for development studies by the QS University Rankings, with the University of Sussex.


  1. Secondary impacts on non-coronavirus healthcare; community trust and engagement in non-covid healthcare provision

The Covid-19 pandemic has undermined capacity and efforts to address other health needs that are just as pressing as the virus itself, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), according to new research published in September 2020 by IDS researchers for the Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform (SSHAP), funded by Wellcome Trust and FCDO.. The pressure on governments to act on Covid-19 now to save ‘immediately identifiable lives’ rather than ‘statistical lives at risk’ has had, and will continue to have, harmful short- and long-term consequences for other areas of health.


The IDS/SSHAP research finds that:

Africa, and decreases in life expectancy for people with NCDs among other impacts.


Overall, the research signals that donors including FCDO should pay more attention to secondary health impacts than they currently are and make sure that ‘vertical’ Covid-19 responses (decisions, measures and actions taken solely with the purpose of preventing and containing Covid-19) do not exacerbate broader health and development problems.


The IDS-led Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development (CREID), funded by FCDO, found that religious minorities groups have faced negative impacts by the secondary impacts of Covid-19.


  1. Secondary impacts of Covid-19 on livelihoods and food security

The poor and the near poor have little ability to withstand the economic shock of Covid-19. Many of those who escaped extreme poverty in recent years are still vulnerable to falling back into it. Estimates suggest that between 71 million and 395 million more people will fall into extreme poverty, most of whom are in Sub-Saharan Africa. The number of people facing acute food insecurity could double to more than 260 million in 2020.

Lack of access to social protection contributes to people’s vulnerabilities to the shocks posed by Covid-19. Around 55% of the world’s population have no or inadequate social protection, especially in Africa, where 80% aren’t covered. Covid-19 has exposed serious gaps in social protection systems, especially in relation to access for informal sector workers, part-time workers, temporary workers, and self-employed workers. The social protection response to Covid-19 has been uneven, with Africa having the lowest levels of coverage at 2% for cash and 5% for cash and in-kind measures combined.

On rural livelihoods in Africa, the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme, funded by the FCDO has produced new research on the Impact of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Africa after conducting household-level telephone interviews in June-July 2020, in seven countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe).

From the households surveyed they found that:

Among religious minority communities, CREID has found that Covid-19 response measures are having a significant and long-lasting impact on livelihoods and food security for those who already experience socio-economic exclusion on the basis of class and caste. These include but are not restricted to daily wage labourers, farmers and small business owners.


  1. Secondary impacts of Covid-19 on women and children; levels domestic abuse, gender-based violence and exploitation of women and children

Working with religious minority groups IDS partners through CREID have identified a significant rise in domestic violence and rape including in Iraq, Myanmar and Nigeria. Lockdown measures, lack of income and lack of access to services such as refuges and hotlines compounded a pre-existing problem, where many women have few rights and little recourse to justice.

Produced for the FCDO, IDS recently published a report on social impacts of Covid-19, including the secondary impacts of Covid-19 on women and girls in low and middle-income countries. It highlights a significant risk of reversals in progress over the last decades in women’s and girls’ economic empowerment, voice, and agency, and the limited gains made in gender equality and women’s rights. This is particularly true if measures are not taken quickly to address the immediate and longer-term impacts of the pandemic on them. The current lack of gender-disaggregated data makes it difficult to know the true impact, but we do already know there has been:


This submission draws on evidence from IDS researchers including:

Professor Melissa Leach, Director, IDS, member of WHO Social Science Expert Group and lead researcher for the Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform (SSHAP)


Dr Mariz Tadros, Director of the IDS-led Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development (CREID).


John Thompson, Research Fellow, IDS, and Joint Co-ordinator of the Future Agricultures Consortium.


Brigitte Rohwerder, Research Officer, IDS, and researcher for the K4D (Knowledge and Evidence for Development) programme.


For further information relating to this evidence submission please contact: Sophie Robinson, External Affairs Officer, or +44 (0)1273 915763.


Further reading:

Rohwerder, B. (2020). Social impacts and responses related to Covid-19 in low- and middle-income countries. K4D Emerging Issues Report 35. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.   

Blog: Report highlights devastating social impacts of Covid-19 in low and middle-income countries

Hrynick, T.; Ripoll, S. and Carter, S. (2020) Broader Health Impacts of Vertical Responses to COVID-19 in Low- and Middle-income Countries’, Review, Brighton: Social Science in Humanitarian Action (SSHAP)      

Rapid assessment of the impact of covid-19 on food systems and rural livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa