Uncovering experiences of Covid-19 vaccination programmes in informal settlements

Aug 4, 2022

Covid Collective

A multi-partner international group, the Covid Collective is working to provide evidence on the social dimensions of the pandemic to inform decisionmaking on Covid-19-related development challenges. Supported by the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the Covid Collective is based at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS).

As part of the Covid Collective, researchers within ACRC have been involved in projects looking at the impact of Covid-19 on communities and livelihoods in African cities.

By Diana Mitlin and Kate Lines

There has been much in the press about the experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the bulk of this journalism has been for and on the global North. Young people living in informal settlements in Harare and Kampala have begun to redress this balance by documenting their own lives and the lives of others in their neighbourhoods. What have people gone through in the past two years and where are they now?

These youth documenters have started by asking the questions about the pandemic that matter to them. What do you do when you have no money and you have children to feed? Or when you are a small business owner who finds that their customers do not have money? Why did you choose to be vaccinated against Covid-19? And who did not manage to be vaccinated, or decided not to, and why?

In doing so, they learned about the people who had to find food for their children when work stopped, and about the dangers of working or living informally when a city was in curfew. They heard about people’s fear of the disease, concerns about hospitalisation, and the challenges posed by vaccination requirements for work or to attend church. And they found that some people had to travel long distances to health centres, that people with disabilities often faced difficulties accessing vaccination sites, that deaf people found the nurses could not communicate with them, and that after standing in long vaccination queues, people sometimes found they had to pay or that jabs had run out. They found local leaders encouraging their communities to be vaccinated and, at the same time, they also discovered that some young people were confident that they did not need the vaccination.

This ten minute documentary offers insights into how global impacts of the pandemic were experienced locally by residents of African cities, as seen through the work of activists and members of Know Your City TV.

This film was produced by Slum/Shack Dwellers International’s youth collective, Know Your City TV, as part of a 2021 Covid Collective study into Covid-19 experiences, especially around vaccine roll out and equity of vaccine distribution, in informal settlements in Harare (Zimbabwe), Kampala (Uganda), Lilongwe (Malawi) and Mumbai (India). The study was led by SDI affiliates in the four cities with coordination from The University of Manchester.

The Covid Collective is a UK and global South research partnership funded by the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.

Know Your City TV is an international collective of youth living in slums, learning by doing and making media for social impact. Through film, photography, writing, performing arts, radio and transmedia, they share their lives and build their cities one story at a time.

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Header photo credit: Know Your City TV Uganda team

Note: This article presents the views of the author featured and does not necessarily represent the views of the African Cities Research Consortium as a whole.

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