COVID-19 Crisis: Lessons for Recovery

by Roger Few, Vasudha Chhotray, Mark Tebboth, Johanna Forster, Carole White, Teresa Armijos and Clare Shelton

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The impacts of COVID-19 have reached across the globe, directly affecting millions of people and intensifying existing development challenges in many countries. But, while in many places the pandemic has brought a level of societal disruption seldom experienced before, in others the situation has broad parallels with the losses and disruptions experienced in recent major disasters. Every crisis is different, of course, and this one is certainly like no other contemporary event. Nevertheless, it would be unwise not to recognise the lessons that can be gained from other disaster and post-disaster contexts. In this brief document, we highlight key insights from research on other crisis situations that we hope can inform recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 as well as management of responses to future pandemics.

Our main concern in this document is how to manage the long-term implications of the pandemic in lower and middle-income countries (LMICs), because of the combination of more widespread poverty and structurally weaker support capacity within many of those countries. However, the lessons are by no means restricted to those contexts.

Central in our arguments is the importance of supporting people to recover their livelihoods and wellbeing, quitably and sustainably. As in all disasters, there are much greater numbers of people affected by the crisis than physically harmed by the hazard (in this case a biological hazard - the outbreak of a virus). And, as in all disasters, these impacts do not fall evenly. Hence, the lessons we report on are oriented to the needs and concerns of those most vulnerable to long-term impacts, as shaped by differential exposure to hazards and barriers to recovery associated with poverty, marginalisation and exclusion. The aim is to promote longer-term, integrated thinking and planning, to create pathways out of the pandemic that more effectively support recovery.

In the following pages, we have brought together eight inter-related lessons from our research work in Latin America, the Caribbean, East Africa and South Asia, which we have organised into four main sections: Managing a prolonged crisis; Planning for complexity; Establishing priorities for recovery; and Building capacities. Each lesson is illustrated with a short example from one of our case studies.

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