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|REPORT: How Open-air Markets Are A Weak Link In The Fight Against COVID-19 by Shehuyinka: 6:55pm On Oct 06, 2020|
By Soila Kenya and Seun Durojaiye
LOUD, raucous, congested, smells of ripe fruits, roast meat and food wafting in the air as vendors cry out their wares. This is standard fare in an open-air market across Kenya and Nigeria. These informal markets are a major avenue for the exchange of goods and services. From fresh farm produce like vegetables and fruits, to clothing items and herbal medicine. Items are generally cheaper than in the more organised retail stores and supermarkets and are important to urban dwellers in some of Africa’s most rapidly growing cities.
Open air markets provide a means of livelihood for a majority of the population in Africa. They provide an intimate connection between the urban populations who need accessible and affordable food and rural farmers who sell their surplus crops. This symbiotic relationship was disrupted with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Abuja and in Nairobi, the capital cities of Nigeria and Kenya, respectively, open-air markets were closed down following travel restrictions and lockdown measures imposed by the governments.
These closures disrupted the food supply for urban and local residents, leading to an increase in the prices of some food items, including staples such as rice and maize. A survey of 11 countries— including Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo —conducted in June 2020 by the International Committee of the Red Cross found that 85% of the respondents said food was available in their local markets. But 94% reported that prices had increased, and 82% said incomes were down, hence low purchasing power.
On the other end of the spectrum, market traders, majority of whom are women, lost income during the lockdown, automatically pushing them deeper into the poverty spiral. The United Nations (UN) estimates that between 83 and 132 million globally have been plunged into food insecurity due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
A report released by the UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme, indicates that an estimated 47 million women worldwide will be pushed into poverty due to the pandemic further widening the gap between men and women who live in poverty.
As Kenya and Nigerian governments lifted the lockdown regulations and ease travel, the observance of the basic guidelines which were put in place to stop the spread of the virus. In the open air markets, vendors and customers are packed together like sardines, making it impossible to maintain the one metre social distance recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is a reality, Teresa Kinyari, a clinical epidemiologist and lecturer at the Department of Medical Physiology, at the University of Nairobi Medical School, describes as ‘risky’ in limiting the spread of the virus.’
READ MORE: https://www.icirnigeria.org/report-how-open-air-markets-are-a-weak-link-in-the-fight-against-covid-19/
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