Journal Article

Gendered economic, social and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation policies in Kenya: Evidence from a prospective cohort survey in Nairobi informal settlements

COVID-19 may spread rapidly in densely populated urban informal settlements. Kenya swiftly implemented mitigation policies; we assess the economic, social and health-related harm disproportionately impacting women.

A prospective longitudinal cohort study with repeated mobile phone surveys in April, May and June 2020.

Participants and setting
2009 households across five informal settlements in Nairobi, sampled from two previously interviewed cohorts.

Primary and secondary outcome measures
Outcomes include food insecurity, risk of household violence and forgoing necessary health services due to the pandemic. Gender-stratified linear probability regression models were constructed to determine the factors associated with these outcomes.

By May, more women than men reported adverse effects of COVID-19 mitigation policies on their lives. Women were 6 percentage points more likely to skip a meal versus men (coefficient: 0.055; 95% CI 0.016 to 0.094), and those who had completely lost their income were 15 percentage points more likely versus those employed (coefficient: 0.154; 95% CI 0.125 to 0.184) to skip a meal. Compared with men, women were 8 percentage points more likely to report increased risk of household violence (coefficient: 0.079; 95% CI 0.028 to 0.130) and 6 percentage points more likely to forgo necessary healthcare (coefficient: 0.056; 95% CI 0.037 to 0.076).

The pandemic rapidly and disproportionately impacted the lives of women. As Kenya reopens, policymakers must deploy assistance to ensure women in urban informal settlements are able to return to work, and get healthcare and services they need to not lose progress on gender equity made to date.