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An Unequal Pandemic: Insights and Evidence from Communities and Civil Society Organisations

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Executive summary

People who have been marginalised have made critical contributions to the COVID-19 pandemic response: providing practical support to families, friends and peers (including food parcels); providing mutual financial aid; and translating or sharing official information. People who have been marginalised have demonstrated extraordinary resilience, adapting to the pandemic’s effects, including finding alternative sources of income.

In contrast to communities’ efforts, official government responses to COVID-19 have often overlooked or excluded people who have been marginalised. The pandemic has exposed considerable gaps and bias in official data published and used by government agencies and public bodies. These data gaps render many people and groups ‘invisible’, in turn excluding them from national responses. The pandemic has built upon structural inequalities of our societies, disproportionately impacting people who have been marginalised.

Effective COVID-19 pandemic responses and recoveries require a comprehensive understanding of both the impact of COVID-19 on people who have been marginalised and the strategies used by communities to adapt to and manage these impacts. Data collected by communities and civil society organisations (CSOs) can increase the visibility of people and groups overlooked by official data, improving understanding oftheir situations and coping strategies.

To understand the unequal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and chart the pathway to an inclusive recovery, a group of CSOs formed the Civil Society Collaborative on Inclusive COVID-19 Data. Working alongside communities, the Collaborative advocates for a more holistic approach that values using community and CSO data to help meet the diverse needs of people and groups who have been marginalised. This report uses insights from community and CSO data collected by Collaborative partners, often in close cooperation with communities, to provide a clearer picture of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people who have been marginalised and their responses. This report highlights five common issues and impacts for people who have been marginalised: access to health; income and livelihoods; food insecurity; education; and violence, abuse and discrimination.

This report is not intended to provide a comprehensive picture of the realities experienced during the pandemic by people who have been marginalised or overly critique government responses to COVID-19. Instead, the focus is on using insights from communities and CSO data to motivate more inclusive COVID-19 pandemic responses and recoveries and demonstrate the value of this data.

Insights in this report highlight that official data provide an inadequate picture of communities experiencing marginalisation in this pandemic. The insights also indicate the enormous challenges that people who have been marginalised have had to respond to, often without adequate support from governments.

Government responses to COVID-19 must complement and strengthen the efforts of communities experiencing marginalisation to prevent further widening of inequalities and reversal of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).