COVID-19, a novel infectious disease, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020. Unlike the world’s persistent, high-burden infectious diseases—such as tuberculosis and malaria—that are more prevalent among the most vulnerable in low and middle-income countries, COVID-19 is unique because of (1) its wide geographic spread across a range of populations, (2) its partially asymptomatic transmission, (3) a disproportionate effect on older people and those with underlying morbidities, and (4) potentially, the level of intensive care required when geographic areas experience a large number of severe cases. Many countries and states have chosen to place entire populations under lockdown to reduce mortality and mitigate the potential burden on health systems. Lockdowns vary greatly in severity, with some countries instituting full lockdowns, mandating social distancing, and strengthening public health responses, and other countries implementing shelter-in-place policies.
This policy brief presents the implications of the pandemic and the lockdown for women’s groups, with a focus on India, Nigeria, and Uganda, all of which have responded quite differently to the COVID-19 crisis.