The experiences of people in Sub-Saharan Africa during the coronavirus pandemic are to be recorded by Glasgow Caledonian University researchers with the aim of changing future government and NGO thinking. 

GCU’s Centre for Climate Justice will undertake the four-month project with the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance to explore the impact of COVID-19 by compiling case studies from Kenya, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Gabon and Morocco.

More specifically, the study will focus on the way the pandemic may affect the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the Paris Agreement, a global pact aimed at alleviating the impact of climate change while building resilience of countries and communities.

The gathered data will then be used to inform and develop recommendations to policy makers on how best to shape post-COVID-19 reconstruction on the continent, as well as inform climate conversations ahead of COP 26.

Professor Tahseen Jafry, Director of the Centre for Climate Justice, said: “Although COVID-19 does not discriminate, there is no doubt that it is the poorest in the global south that will be impacted the most – not least because they have little or no access to healthcare provision and resources such as clean water, masks and sanitisers. This is compounded by the fact that it is the poorest people who are already bearing the brunt of the climate crisis and the impacts of extreme weather events.   

“The pandemic has exacerbated the delicate situation on the African continent, already engulfed by a myriad of other challenges including climate-induced droughts, floods, landslides, locust invasion and water scarcity, deepening poverty and inequality.

“Our focus is to collate new evidence and information via the real experiences of people to complement official data and statistics that are compiled by government bodies.”

Using the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance’s network to recruit participants, GCU’s Dr Michael Mikulewicz and Dr Sennan Mattar will work with teams of researchers in the African countries to conduct online, semi-structured interviews in some of the evidently climate-vulnerable neighbourhoods.  They will also ask participants to take part in a study so they can track a family’s or individual’s experiences over a specific period of time. Using this data, they will seek to identify coping mechanisms as well as the challenges and opportunities that face the people on the frontline of climate crisis during the pandemic. 

During the project, the researchers intend to conduct online discussions with a range of stakeholders, before hosting an end-of-project online conference to share and validate the results, which will also be peer reviewed and published. 

Professor Jafry said: “It is intended that this new evidence is reflective of people’s experiences, feelings, emotions and personal insights on how they are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, while tackling the climate crisis, as well as to provide critical thinking on how some of the issues that emerge need to be considered in current and future planning of handling pandemics, and crises, of this nature.”