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Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Investing in research and development to help our teams and partners meet the challenges of the pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic impacts low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs) around the world, the international development community must work together to respond to immediate problems and build a more resilient future at the same time.

RTI conducted internally-funded research and development initiatives to help us better understand the impact that COVID-19 in LMICs so that countries, donors, RTI project teams, and our partners could learn and adapt program activities to address the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Leveraging agri-food networks to track the impact of COVID-19 on rural households in Senegal  

Through the Feed the Future Senegal Naatal Mbay project, we developed the capability to reach up to 155,000 rural households through 123 farmer networks in the most disadvantaged regions in the country using the open-source CommAgri platform. Most of the networks’ data infrastructure remains active today despite the project closing in 2019.

Our 4-month research study worked with four networks in three regions of Senegal. The study collected information about the agriculture sector and the farmers in these regions and how they are faring during COVID-19. It will also identify how the networks themselves are monitoring the shock and provide them with data to test their own assumptions and adapt their future response strategies.  Learn more.

Real-time data on food security and stigma

We are conducting a series of short message services (SMS) surveys with partner GeoPoll (a.k.a. Mobile Accord Inc.) to monitor knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions on COVID-19 and food security in Ghana, and COVID-19 and stigma in Ghana and Zambia.

Additional information about food security and coping strategies used by families and households to protect their nutrition and health is important because the epidemic may exacerbate food insecurity through disruptions in food supply chains, increases in prices, and reductions of income.

Stigma can have negative consequences for disease control as those who are ill may decline to seek testing and/or treatment or wait too long to do so, care providers may be punished for helping, and survivors face difficulties re-entering society. Stigma also has consequences beyond health as it can impact employability, businesses, schooling, marriage, and other life factors, often with gender dimensions.

Calculating learning loss due to school disruptions

We used data from 27 countries across the education projects we implement to examine the potential impacts of COVID-19-related school disruptions. We constructed a model to estimate the likely amount of learning loss as a function of how long schools are closed. In some countries, the estimated loss could be equivalent to more than 50 percent of an average year’s learning. If disruptions are protracted, some students’ skills may diminish below the level they had reached at the end of the prior grade.

While our analyses produce only estimates of learning loss, the implications of our findings are that substantial remediation will likely be needed when schools restart. School systems need to allow additional instructional time, focus on rebuilding skills, and provide ample opportunities both inside and outside of school for students to practice and reestablish their literacy skills.

Explore further: Calculating the Educational Impact of COVID-19 | RTI

Learning and Adapting During COVID-19 | A Series of Webinars

These sessions focus on how the international development community is facing the challenges of COVID-19. View past webinars and sign up to receive information for upcoming events.