Lockdowns, lives and livelihoods: the impact of COVID-19 and public health responses to conflict affected populations - a remote qualitative study in Baidoa and Mogadishu, Somalia

Published on 19 August 2021


Background: Authorities in Somalia responded with drastic measures after the first confirmed COVID-19 case in
mid-March 2020, closing borders, schools, limiting travel and prohibiting most group functions. However, the
impact of the pandemic in Somalia thereafter remained unclear. This study employs a novel remote qualitative
research method in a conflict-affected setting to look at how some of the most at-risk internally displaced and host
populations were impacted by COVID-19, what determined their responses, and how this affected their health and
socio-economic vulnerability.
Methods: We conducted a remote qualitative study, using Katikati, a 1-to-1 conversation management and
analysis platform using short message service (SMS) developed by Lark Systems with Africa’s Voices Foundation
(AVF), for semi-structured interviews over three months with participants in Mogadishu and Baidoa. We recruited a
gender balanced cohort across age groups, and used an analytical framework on the social determinants of health
for a narrative analysis on major themes discussed, triangulating data with existing peer-reviewed and grey
Results: The remote research approach demonstrated efficacy in sustaining trusted and meaningful conversations
for gathering qualitative data from hard-to-reach conflict-affected communities. The major themes discussed by the
35 participants included health, livelihoods and education. Two participants contracted the disease, while others
reported family or community members affected by COVID-19. Almost all participants faced a loss of income and/
or education, primarily as a result of the strict public health measures. Some of those who were heavily affected
economically but did not directly experienced disease, denied the pandemic. Religion played an important role in
participants’ beliefs in protection against and salvation from the disease. As lockdowns were lifted in August 2020,
many believed the pandemic to be over.

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